The pronghorn is built for speed. It’s got light bones, shock-absorbing hooves with cushioned toes, a large heart, windpipe and lungs. It would even theoretically outrun the Cheetah for longer distance chases. It got this way because only a few thousand years ago, there was a Cheetah in the American west and there were saber-tooths as well, so speed was of essence at that time.
The pronghorn is a bit of a mix of deer and antelope. It has antlers as a sheath on it’s horns. The antlers are shed every year but the horns are permanent. It belongs to the Order Cetarteriodactyla and is the only surviving member of the Antilocapridae family. Believe it or not, their closest relatives are the Giraffes of Africa.
They are plant-eaters and can roam vast distances so the prairie habitat suits them rather well. They were first properly described in the Lewis and Clark expedition which found them in South Dakota. Their range now extends from Southern Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada south through the United States to Sonora and San Luis Potosí in northern Mexico.
Pronghorns form mixed herd during winters but split up in spring, with females forming their own groups with set hierarchies among them. Adult males become solitary and young males form their own herds.
During courtship, adult males maintain a group of females. Mating occurs in early spring and babies are born in mid-autumn, with twin fawns being quite common.
The conservation status for this species has improved very markedly since the beginning of the 20th century when the outlook for their existence looked really bleak. The efforts of the Boone and Crockett Club and the National Audubon Society resulted in President Hoover signing an executive order for a refuge. In 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a further executive order creating a 549,000-acre tract.
At the time of this writing, the pronghorn thrives and is so numerous that it is even hunted in parts of its territory.