Raphicerus melanotis (Grysbok, Cape grysbok)

grysbok [Afrikaans]; Greisbock, Kap-Greisbock [German]; grysbok, grysbok du Cap [French]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Ferungulata > Cetartiodactyla (even-toed ungulates and cetaceans) > Ruminantia (ruminants) > Family: Bovidae (antelopes and buffalo) > Subfamily: Antilopinae


Size: Shoulder height 54 cm; weight 10 kg; average horn length 8 cm.

Dental Formula: I C P M = 32

A member of the dwarf antelopes, the small Cape grysbok has a distinctive coat of reddish-brown upperparts clearly flecked with white hairs. This gives the coat a grey appearance, hence the name “grys”, which is Afrikaans for grey. The white flecking is not as dense on the flanks and neck. The underparts are lighter brown then the rest of the coat. The reddish – brown tail is very short. The very large grey-brown ears have a white fringe on the inner edge. A pair of black false hooves are situated on the lower leg just above the fetlock. Males have a pair of small, smooth back-angled, black horns. The females are slightly larger than the males and hornless. This species could easily be confused with the Steenbok, but the white flecking on the coat is easily recognizable.

Distribution and habitat

The Grysbok is a “Fynbos endemic” being almost entirely restricted to this vegetation type of the Cape. Only found along a narrow belt of the south-western and southern Cape coast and adjacent interior. Shelters in thick scrub-bush and occurs in a variety of habitats from bush-covered dunes to wooded gorges to mountain slopes. It often occurs along the fringes of agricultural land where dense cover is provided by adjacent remaining belts of natural vegetation.


 A wide variety of plant species is included in their diet, this includes indigenous shrubs and trees and even the invasive Port Jackson wattle. This antelope is not dependant on free-standing water as it can obtain its water requirements from the plant material it eats.

Mainly nocturnal but also active in the early morning and late afternoon and if in a protected environment they can be seen out on cool and cloudy days. They live singly or in pairs. Males are territorial and territories are marked using dung piles and secretions from the preorbital gland in front of the eye and pedal glands on the feet.


Predominantly a browser but it does graze.


After a gestation period of about 180 days, a single lamb is born. The birth maybe at anytime of the year but most are born in summer from September to December. Life span: 10 years (maximum).


In the Western Cape the grysbok is considered a nuisance by fruit and wine farmers, as it eats the young grapes as well as the terminal buds on the vines and fruit trees. Unfortunately it is a common road casualty becoming disorientated and trapped by the headlights of cars at night. Conservation status is regarded as low risk, but the survival of the species is conservation dependant.



Contact us if you can contribute information or images to improve this page.

 Mammals home   Biodiversity Explorer home   Iziko home   Search