Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Topi / Tsessebe

Damaliscus lunatus


Topi are medium sized antelopes that can grow to be 104-126 cm at shoulder height. Topi have a long narrow muzzle and oare S-shaped horns that are ringed and can grow to be 30-40 cm long. This species has a short, glossy, tan colored coat with purple spots on the undersides. Markings on the body can be white or dark in color. Adult males appear darker than females and young calves (which have light markings).


This species can be found as segregated populations extending from the northern savanna to east and southern Africa. They prefer grasslands, large treeless plains, and savannas with little bushes and trees. Topi can sometimes be found in the uplands but they tend to remain in the lowlands.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Topi are herbivores, consuming only vegetation. The diet of this species consists almost entirely of grass. Feeding takes place all day but mostly in the morning and late afternoon. During the rainy season this species avoids short or very mature grasses while in the dry season they consume a lot of grass.


This species breeds once every year, but some populations have two calving peaks within a year. Topis usually produce calves at the end of the dry season after a gestation of 8 months. Young stay with their mother until the next calf is born. Young males form bachelor herds after they have reached a year of age, just before rut/ breeding season. Females reach sexual maturity after 16-18 month but do not reach adult size until they are two years old. Males do not become sexually mature until they reach three years of age.

Months and Times of Activity

This species is very territorial and when traveling in groups they prefer to travel in dangerous territory of lions and other predators just to avoid impeding on the territory of other topi herds. Feeding activity for this species peaks during the morning and late afternoon.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    Social structure of this species is determined by habitat and ecological conditions. Territory size and number of females within a territory are also determined by ecological conditions. When the bull, or dominant male, is not around, the dominant female takes the head position.
•    Males stand upon mounds to display where their territory exists while females use these mounds to alert others of danger.
•    Children’s book featuring this animal: The Antelope Who Loved Cantaloupe by Celeste Marie Halata


 Newell, T. 1999. "Damaliscus lunatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at