The roan antelope is one of Kenya’s less common antelope species. The best place to see one is in the Shimba Hills National Reserve, where they have been translocated from other parts of the country, although there are still a few small herds in Masai Mara.
The roan is the third largest of the antelopes after elands and kudu. It measures up to 150 cm at the shoulder and bears a striking resemblance to a horse. The coat varies from reddish fawn to dark rufous with white underparts and there’s a conspicuous mane of stilt, black-tipped hairs which stretches from the nape to the shoulders. Under the neck, there’s another mane of sorts consisting of long dark hairs. The ears are long, narrow and pointed with a brown tassel at the tip. The face is a very distinctive black and white pattern. Both sexes have curving backswept horns which can is measure up to 70 cm.
Roan are aggressive by nature and fight from a very early age — a characteristic which frequently deters predators. For most of the year they live in small herds of upto 20 and sometimes more, led by a master bull, but in the mating season, the bulls become solitary and take a female out of the herd. The pair stay together the calf is born after which the females form a herd by themselves. They eventually return to their former herd. Herds congregate during the dry season.
Being principally grazers, roan rarely move far when food is plentiful but they are susceptible to drought and during such periods they may be constantly on the move.