The New International Encyclopædia/Pronghorn

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PRONGHORN. The goat-antelope (Antilocapra Americana) of the plains of Western North America, generally known as ‘antelope,’ and by the Canadian French as ‘cabree’ (cabrit). It ranged from the Missouri River to the Pacific coast and from the Saskatchewan River to the interior of Mexico, most commonly on open plains or in broad valleys. It is not nearly as abundant now as formerly, but it is still plentiful in the less thickly settled parts of the West.

NIE 1905 Proghorn - head of a pronghorn.jpg

HEAD OF A PRONGHORN.

Showing the early change from hairy skin to horn at the tips of the young horns.

The pronghorn is about 4½ feet long and three feet high. It is yellowish-brown above and white below; there are brown and white markings on the head, and the white buttocks are said to gleam in the sun at a long distance. The shape of the body is deer-like, but more robust; the head is carried erect, while the bounding gait and alert air are gazelle-like. (See Colored Plate of Antelopes.) The animal differs from the true antelopes and from all other ruminants in the total absence of ‘false hoofs,’ and in the remarkable nature of its horns, which are deciduous. The skull is surmounted by two spike-like horn-cores, rising over the great eye-orbit and leaning outward. These are covered with a skin and coat of bristly hairs which agglutinate at the tip and change into a compressed horny sheath, the change proceeding toward the base until the whole is sheathed with horn. These stand about a foot in height, are curved inward, often so as to be truly lyrate, and—unlike any other sheath-horn known—are branched, having one prong (occasionally more) on the anterior edge. Every winter these horns are pushed off by new hairy growths beneath them, comparable to the ‘velvet’ of deer's antlers, which in turn harden into another pair of true horns. This distinction is deemed sufficient to justify placing the pronghorn in a separate family, the Antilocapridæ, intermediate between the giraffes and the Bovidæ. The horns of the female are rudimentary. The pronghorn is provided with several glands which secrete strong-smelling substances, especially during the rutting season. The most notable of these glands are just below the ear, one on each side. In summer the hair of the pronghorn is smooth and flexible, but as winter approaches it lengthens; each hair becomes thick, its interior becomes white and spongy, and it loses its flexibility, at last becoming brittle, so that its point is easily rubbed off. This singular fur forms a close and warm covering for the animal, but renders the skin useless as fur, nor does it make serviceable leather. The flesh, however, is delicious.

NIE 1905 Proghorn - skull of a pronghorn.jpg

SKULL OF A PRONGHORN.

Showing horn-cores and dentition.

The pronghorn is confined to the open plains and thinly wooded parks and valleys of the Western mountains. It is suspicious and timid, and liable to panic, when it will dance up and down; but when once away goes at a leaping pace which few greyhounds can outstrip. Early in spring the does separate from the winter herd and in some retired spot bring forth usually t«o kids. The does and kids soon gather into bands for mutual assistance in resisting their foes, and in the early autumn they are joined by the bucks, whose horns are new, and who engage in fierce contests for the possession of the does. In former days these bands numbered thousands, and those in the northern districts regularly migrated to the southward when snow came. At the beginning of the present century the pronghorns had been so reduced and scattered that no herds of great number could gather.

Consult: Caton, Antelope and Deer of America (New York, 1877); Lydekker, Royal Natural History, vol. ii. (London, 1895); Canfield, Proceedings of the Zoölogical Society (London, 1866); and books on sport in the Western United States and Canada.