Sable antelope mate during the dry season from May to July when sub-populations congregate on remaining green pastures (5). Maternal herds of 15 to 25 breeding females and their young are led by a single alpha female (3). Young males are driven out of this herd at about three to four years of age and join bachelor herds of around two to twelve individuals. When around five or six years of age, males will establish and defend a territory at choice feeding grounds which attract females (3). The dominant male allows subordinate males to graze in his territory as long as they are submissive and show no interest in his females, but will fiercely fight any male that challenges his authority. Fights involve males circling one another, shaking their heads, dropping to their knees and engaging in ‘horn wrestling’ (3) (5). Fatalities are known, but rare (5). A bull also uses urine and faeces to scent-mark the perimeter of his territory to warn off all other rival bulls (3).
Peak mating activity occurs in June, and after a gestation of eight to nine months, females typically give birth to a single calf at the end of the rainy season, when food is abundant and the long grass provides sufficient cover (3) (5). After birth, the calf remains concealed for at least two weeks (3), joined by its mother for the first week, before she returns to the maternal group that the calf will eventually join (5). The calf is weaned and fully independent at six to eight months of age (3). Females start to breed at two and a half years of age and attain rank status in the herd hierarchy based on seniority, while males are evicted from the social group at three to four years old. These males then join bachelor herds of two to twelve individuals until they reach sexual maturity at five years (3) (5).
Most active in the early morning and late afternoon (2), sable antelope graze on a variety of short grasses abundant during the growing season and survive during the harsh dry seasonby browsing on herbs, bushes and trees (3). Water is visited at least every other day and no sable antelope will travel more then two miles from a watering hole or river (5). Adults are rarely attacked by predators such as lions because of their large horns and formidable fighting abilities, but the young, injured and old are vulnerable to predation by lions, leopards, hyenas, African hunting dogs and crocodiles (3) (5).