By Russell A. Graves
Of all the Texas big game species, none is more emblematic of the wide open west than the pronghorn. Swift and fleet footed, the pronghorn covers distances faster than any other land mammal on the continent. Over the past decade or so, the pronghorn of West Texas and the Marfa Plateau couldn’t outrun enigmatic problems that plague the species.
A Unique Species
Pronghorns are a biological enigma. While they are popularly called “goats” or antelopes, in reality, the species is unique and has no direct relatives in the animal kingdom. In fact, it is not even a true antelope. Instead, the species maintains its own ecological niche by being the only surviving North American member of its family, Antilocapridae.
About three feet high at the shoulders and 90 to 150 pounds in weight, the pronghorn is also North America’s fastest land animal. They can sustain speeds of more than 50 miles per hour in short bursts and can cruise for miles at a time at half that speed – a fast enough pace to leave predating coyotes and bobcats behind.
Both the males and females sport true horns that consist of flat bone covered in a keratinous sheath that is shed and regrown each year. While both sexes have horns, the males are characterized by a black swatch of hair that rings the upper throat.
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