|18th Century Illustration of a Bluebuck|
Class : Mammalia
Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Bovidae
Genus : Hippotragus
Species : leucophaeus
Height : 4ft (1.2m)
Weight : 350lbs (160kg)
Status : Extinct since around 1800
The Bluebuck is a notable species because it was the first large African mammal to go extinct in historic times. What is so interesting is that they were already quite rare in their native South Africa when Europeans first described them in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is believed that their decline began as far back as 2,000 years ago, when the climate began to shift and when the first human farmers came to the region with sheep that competed with the Bluebucks for food and space.
During the Ice Age, Bluebucks probably had a range that spread across Africa, but by modern times they had become restricted to areas in the South and East. They were very selective grazers, and only fed on high-quality grasses. They also needed to drink water directly, which makes them different from some other antelope species that obtain most of their moisture through the plants that they eat.
There are four preserved Bluebucks specimens in European museums, along with a handful of horns and skeletons. Interestingly, none of the museum specimens show any hint of bluish hair. It is thought by some that the name comes from the sheen given off by the mix of black and yellow hairs found in adults.
Bluebucks are related to our modern Sable and Roan Antelopes, though they were smaller in size.