The Nyala is one of the most beautiful antelope you will see at Londolozi. What stands out with the Nyala is the extreme sexual dimorphism, with the two sexes looking completely different. You could even be excused for thinking that they are two different animals entirely. Both sexes have a white chevron between the eyes, and the bushy tail is white on the underside. Otherwise the differences are radical…
The female is short haired with a rufous chestnut coat. There are no horns on females, and there is no mane on the neck. It is distinctively smaller then the male. The female has very prominent white markings running vertically along the sides of the animal.
The males are larger than females, and have a shaggy dark brown to charcoal grey coat, often with a bluish tinge. There are fewer and less conspicuous markings than on the female, but there is a bold erectile white dorsal crest. The lower legs are tawny and a similar colour to that of the female’s coat. He has yellow tipped horns that can grow to about 80 cm spiralling as he ages.
One thing I find striking is that the young males start off looking like their mothers and then start changing their colouration after 10-14 months to start resembling their fathers. Size and the presence of horns and a shaggy mane are often more easily used to ID a male then the actual colour.
An unusual morph
Of late we have started seeing an adult male with a female coat. This strange morph makes this animal look quite remarkable. I cannot answer why he looks like this and would love to hear if any of you have seen a similar thing with Nyala or any other antelope for that matter. I would love to know from someone with a veterinarian or genetics background whether this is simply a colour morph or will he actually exhibit some female characteristics. A heightened level of femal hormones? Could he be infertile? He has been seen a number of times in the presence of a bachelor herd of ‘normal-looking’ male Nyala in the Dudley Riverbank area.
Whilst reading Skinner and Chimimba’s: The Mammals of the Southern Africa Subregion I read the following… “Dorst and Dandelot (1970) stated that adult males with bright chestnut colour of the females have been recorded” – that is exactly what we have been seeing here. See the photo below.
If anyone can shed some light on the matter please do let us know…
Written by Adam Bannister