Wondernose: What animal will use its horns while eating in much the same way we use a table fork?

by Rebecca Martin | Oct 30, 2021 | 0 comments

Eland. Photo © NDP/Dreamstime.com.

Picture this, Wondernose—a large mammal, nearly 6 feet (2 m) tall at the shoulders and 10 feet (3 m) long, wearing a pair of long spiral horns. The animal is a grazer and also a browser, meaning it likes to eat twigs and leaves from shrubs and trees. Having eaten bare all the lower branches, our animal would now like to reach higher. What does it do? It catches some branches between its spiral horns and gives its head a good twist. Snap! Down come the branches, neatly severed like a piece of meat beneath your fork.

No, no, this is not a giraffe. I know giraffes like to browse, but have you ever seen a giraffe with horns
4 feet (1.2 m) long? Giraffes have such long necks that they don’t need help from horns to bring down food.

I don’t suppose you’re surprised to hear that this animal lives in Africa. Its appearance is partway between an ox and a deer, though we are also reminded of a zebra because some have prominent white stripes running vertically down their sides. The color of the hide ranges from tawny brown to gray. The older ones can turn really dark. At the end of a skinny 18-inch (.5 m) tail, you will see a bushy black tuft. Another distinguishing mark is those black patches on the back of each front leg.

A herd of elands can also be identified by a peculiar noise they make. Click-click. Click-click. That’s what you’d hear, even from 100 yards/meters away. People used to think the clicking noise came from the two parts of the cloven hoof snapping together. But eventually scientists figured out the sound comes from the knees of the older males. No, I cannot tell you what makes their knees click, Wondernose.

Despite its great size, this animal is very agile. It can trot for hours. Its galloping speed is up to 40 mph (70 km/h), but it quickly tires at this speed.

Besides being a good runner, our mystery animal can really jump. From a standing start, it can leap
6 feet (2 m) into the air! Now I know a horse can jump six feet too, but it has to get a running start. Among a herd of these animals, it’s not unusual to see one of them leap effortlessly over the back of another.

Running away is one of our animal’s means of defense. Should our animal become cornered, however, it can be a formidable foe because of those pointed horns.

Is this a kind of antelope? Correct, Wondernose. It’s the biggest antelope on Earth! However, the word “antelope” is not part of its name. If you can speak Dutch, here’s a hint. The name is Dutch for elk. Apparently, the immigrants from Holland thought these were elk, which is no wonder. The resemblance certainly is there. But elk don’t have a dewlap.

What’s a dewlap? Our mystery animal has a heavy fold of skin hanging down from its neck, and that’s called a dewlap.
So, Wondernose, you can’t speak the Dutch of Holland. That means I’ll have to tell you our animal’s name. It’s the eland, and you pronounce it EE-lund.

There are two types of eland. The common eland is found both in central and southern Africa, while the Derby eland lives in central and western Africa. The Derby is also called the giant eland and is usually larger than the common eland. Whereas the coat of the common eland tends to be grayish, the giant’s is more of a rich fawn color, with bolder white stripes.

As far as habitat is concerned, elands are found in open plains and in bush country. They feed at night and lie in the bush during the hot part of the day. Usually they live in herds of from twenty to several hundred animals.
Amazingly, elands are able to go for weeks without drinking water. So, you see, they can survive in semi-arid areas on the moisture from succulent plants. Ideally, though, elands do like to live near water and will drink several times a day.

Elands are fairly gentle animals, and their meat is tasty. They’re like cattle in a lot of ways. Sounds like a good candidate for domestication, doesn’t it? If buffalo and elephants can be tamed, why not elands? Yet it’s only in recent times that people have been farming elands. Elands have an advantage over cattle because they’ll produce good meat on fairly coarse pasture. Even their milk is good and is considered to have special health benefits.

Giant Eland
Giant Eland. Photo © Annabelle496/Dreamstime.com.

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