Oryx. Oryx gazella. Known as Gemsbok (pronounced hemsbok) in southern Africa. It could even be the origin of the unicorn myth… This stunning antelope is a true desert dweller often seeming to survive on virtually nothing at all, and not needing to drink, although they will if water is available.
One evening I was standing beside our Toyota Hilux on the edge of a salt pan in Khutse game reserve in Botswana (probably with a hunters dry in my hand) when I noticed a commotion on the other side of the pan. It turned out to be 2 male gemsbok chasing each other, completely oblivious to what was going on around them, concentrating only on each other. They were galloping straight at us and as they got closer and closer to us, I remember inching closer and closer to the vehicle, wondering if we were about to be rammed headon. But at the last moment the lead gemsbok seemed to see us and swerved away, passing parallel to our vehicle, closely followed by his pursuer.
Most antelope are graceful and elegant, many are beautifully marked, but what is easy to forget with antelope is that despite their looks, they are built tough; built to survive predators, rough terrain & drought. And when you see a gemsbok galloping past you, you are suddenly aware of the power and strength of this pony-sized antelope. You realize it is far more than a dramatically marked, scimitar horned beauty.
I really should paint them more often!
Until next time…