One of South Africa’s most recognised symbols is the springbok antelope. This medium sized animal is one of the most famous of Africa’s wild game and is the animal that most people think of whenever there is a mention of ‘antelopes’ in popular media.
The springbok is the national animal of South Africa, and it has been so since the start of the 20th century. The animal features prominently in their coinage, particularly in their gold bullion. Coins featuring springbok antelopes are widely available and can be found as far as the UK, sold at places like Atkinsons Bullion.
The antelope is even a mascot for several prominent South African sports teams, particularly the National Rugby Union team of South Africa.
A Striking Survivalist
The springbok became the symbol of South Africa because of its adaptability and hardiness. It is able to survive Africa’s harsh environment with relative ease.
This animal exists successfully in the hot African savannah, even when water and food are scarce and the ground is scorching. Springbok dines on the tough grasses and shrubs of the plains, and knows how to find moisture-rich roots in the absence of water.
Springbok antelopes are especially famous for their impressive agility — these animals can jump up to 13 feet in the air and can run up to 54 miles per hour. Its amazing ability to leap is known as ‘pronking’. Pronking is a defensive manoeuvre when the antelope feels threatened.
The African Symbol of Unity
The springbok has been the South African symbol for more than a hundred years. It has since come to symbolise unity in a country that is torn historically by racial division. It was once a hated symbol, being associated with the white minority rule, or apartheid.
With the end of the apartheid in 1994, Nelson Mandela, a prominent revolutionary, intervened to keep the name of the animal for the sake of the rugby teams it represents.
Since then, the springbok antelope has become a symbol of unity and national pride.