by, Jo Carol Hebert
“It’s Not Easy Being Small!”
Any animal named a ‘dik-dik’ has to be cute, right? And these little antelopes, in the bovid-cattle family, do not disappoint. Tipping the scales at only 6-13 pounds, and 12-inches tall at the shoulder (length of a standard ruler), they are only 19-26 inches long. When the grass in their savannah biome grows too high, they have to move to another area with shorter grass, so they can see over the top! (The continent of Africa is ½ savannah grasslands).
This ‘bite-size’ mammal is a meal for cheetahs, leopards and hyenas. Fortunately, ‘dik-diks’ can run 26 mph (miles per hour) on thin, spindly legs, ‘zig-zagging’ in a pattern that confuses their pursuers. Unfortunately, from above, eagles and hawks can swoop upon them. Even pythons on the ground have them on the menu. Actually, a lion that needs up to 50 pounds of meat a day, usually doesn’t bother with a little ‘dik-dik’ tidbit.
How Cute Are They?
These miniature ‘ungulates’ (with hooves) are probably smaller than your dog. Delicate bodies and long necks balance big ‘rabbit-like’ ears. Big, round eyes with thick eyelashes peer cautiously through the bushes. A peaked tuft of hair sticks up over 3-inch, sharp, permanent horns. With a pointed nose called a ‘snout’, and a stubby fluff of a tail, they definitely get an A+ in ‘adorableness’.
A Needle in a Haystack
There are over one million ‘dik-diks’ scattered across the Eastern and Southern African bushlands. But, don’t count on seeing one. Light shades of gray and brown fur provide perfect camouflage in the grass and shrubs of their habitat. Shy, elusive ‘herbivores’, they spend their life grazing and hiding from predators. When the heat of the African summers are unbearable, they feed in the dark of night (nocturnal),
The Antelope That Cries
‘Dik-diks’ have a special eye gland at the corner of each eye. This black spot can deposit a drop of fluid that marks a ‘territorial’ claim to their area. When they poke their head in the grass, the sticky secretion leaves a scent on the foliage.
Did You Know?
- The bovid-baby dik-dik’ is a ‘calf’
- Females are bigger than the male
- African ‘dik-dik’ species are: Gunther’s, Salt, Silver, and Kirk’s
- Females mate for life
- The parents run their offspring from their territory at 8 months
- They can survive without water (get moisture from vegetation, flowers)
- They can live 10 years in the wild
- They are considered LC (Least Concern) on the IUCN Red List
- This species is hunted by humans for ‘leather’ soft skin. (One ‘dik-dik’ for a pair of gloves!)
Poop is Important!
‘Dik-diks’ are tidy when they go to the toilet. They poop in the same area. This ‘dung’ pile is called a ‘midden’.The size of the poop matters, to show dominance in their region. So, these clever critters will poop on an elephant or buffalo’s pile to make their excrement look larger.
Love at First Sight
These little critters prefer to mate for life. They are very protective of each other and stay close together for companionship and security. The female communicates alarm by whistling through tubular ‘snouts’, making a shrill sound like ‘dik-dik-dik-dik’, which prompted their name. Other animals appreciate being alerted to danger by the warning calls of the ‘dik-dik’.
Take the Dik-Dik Quiz – True or False?
- A ‘savannah’ is a biome of grassland.
- “Dik-diks’ are the largest antelopes.
- For being ‘cute’, ‘dik-diks’ get a C- grade.
- ‘Nocturnal’ means night-time.
- The offspring of ‘dik-diks’ stay with their parents for life.
- ‘Dik-diks’ need to stay by water.
- A ‘dung pile’ is called a ‘midden’.
- A ‘snout’ is a nose.
- The IUCN Conservation Red List says that ‘dik-diks’ are almost extinct.
- If you go to Africa, you will probably see a ‘dik-dik’
We will stay on the fascinating continent of Africa for the next ‘Horns and (Or?) Antlers: The ‘almost as cute as a ‘dik-dik’ – Klipspringer, Olympic Rock-Jumper.
Categories: Horns & Antlers