Hippotragus niger - The Sable

The Sable is a rotund, barrel chested antelope with a short neck and a long face. It resembles the larger roan antelope, to which it is closely related. Among its distinctive features are its long horns, some 40 to 65 inches long. The ringed horns rise vertically, then sweep backwards in a pronounced curve. They are found in both sexes, but the male's horns are slightly larger and heavier than the female's.

Did you know? Sable live in groups consisting of herds of females with their young, male bachelor groups and solitary dominant males. Age determines rank in the hierarchy.

Both males and females have manes on the neck, and when they arch their necks and stand with their head held high and tails outstretched, they resemble horses. This flexed-neck position makes sables appear larger than they really are. The males maintain this position even when they gallop, as the arched neck is an important manifestation of dominance.


Sable stand about 45 to 55 inches at the shoulder.


400 - 500 pounds.


Light woodland. Sables live in areas of light woodland, especially in a mixture of bush and grassland, but usually avoid open, grassy plains.


Catch sight of an impressive sable drinking from a watering hole or grazing on grasses at the Pilanesberg National Park (less than two hours from Pretoria), the Tilodi Wilderness near Bela-Bela, the Lapalala Wilderness (relatively close to Johannesburg and Pretoria).

The Wonderkop Nature Reserve (near the Waterberg of Limpopo), and the Sandveld Nature Reserve, two hours from Bloemfontein are also excellent spots for spotting the Sable.

Diet - Herbivores

Herbivorous, Sables mostly eat grass but at times will eat herbs and leaves from shrubs and trees. They are never found very far from water and are especially dependent upon it during the dry season.


Only a few of the most dominant of the mature males are able to obtain and hold territories. They try to set them up on the best grazing grounds because the more nutritious the feed, the more females are attracted to the area. The changing colour of sables as they grow older signals their age to others, thereby granting them status and dominance in their social system.


Single young born any time of the year.


Gestation is about 9 months.

Life Expectancy

17 years in the wild.


Wish you were here?

Ivory Tree Game Lodge

  • Property TypeGame Lodge
  • Guests128
  • Rooms/Units67
View and book

Where to see Sable in their natural habitat?

Want to see sable in their natural habitat? In South Africa, find sable in many game reserves and national parks, including...

Conservation Status
South Africa's Big 5
South Africa. Explore. Experience. Stay

SA-Venues.com® has been assisting travellers with their South Africa travel plans since 1999, and is the largest, independent online travel guide for South Africa available in both English and German.