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Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi

Blesbok are a species of antelope which are indigenous to the open grasslands of South Africa. This species was first discovered by settlers in the 17th century and their numbers were said to be so huge that they filled the horizon.

However, blesbok were hunted for their skin and for meat and by the 19th century they were on the verge of extinction. Protective measures have since been put in place and the population has sufficiently increased to the point that the species has been removed from the endangered list.

These antelope get their name from the word ‘bles’ which in African means ‘blaze’ and refers to the very broad white stripe down the face. Both males and females have horns which can be up to 38 centimetres long.

The average blesbok can measure up to 1.6 metres and can weigh up to 70 kilograms.

Belfast Zoo was the first zoo in Ireland to breed blesbok. We are home to five blesboks after our latest arrival, Betty Bantu, in 2018. 

IUCN Status

The IUCN status of the Blesbok is least concern.

For more info on classifications visit

Animal class


Conservation status

Blesbok are not currently under threat. However, hunting and habitat destruction due to agriculture continue to impact this species.


Grasslands – found in open grasslands of South Africa.


Blesbok are abundant in South Africa and numbers are currently increasing. However, they are still hunted for meat.


Herbivore – diet is almost entirely grass.