Yellowstone Valley Zoo: Pronghorn


Some people call them speed goats because they’re fast and related to goats.  But their proper name is American pronghorn.  A lot of people call them antelope, though they are not closely related to African antelope.  In fact, their closest living relative is the giraffe.

American pronghorn are the 2nd fastest land animal on earth, eclipsed only by the cheetah.  Cheetah can reach speeds near 7o mph in short bursts.  Pronghorn tend to max-out around 60 mph.  But while cheetah can only top-line run for short distances, the pronghorn is able to maintain nearly half of its top speed for great distances–miles and miles.



Unlike mule deer, white tail deer, and elk, pronghorn are poor jumpers.  And all of the seemingly endless miles of barbwire fences across the American west have taken their toll on these animals by limiting food supplies and blocking migration routes.

There aren’t a lot of pronghorn right around Sweetwater Fly Shop.  But I’ve seen them just outside of Livingston in the fields beside I90 and south of shop along Paradise Valley’s Route 89, below the Yankee Jim Canyon on the Yellowstone River’s west bank.  Perhaps the best place to find pronghorn, when you’re fishing the Livingston and Gardiner region, is along the Old Yellowstone Trail Road.  There are almost always pronghorn here, near and within Yellowstone National Park’s boundary.  I shot all of the pronghorn photos in this blog along the Old Yellowstone Trail.



A herd of pronghorn just outside Yellowstone Nation Park



Pronghorn are more difficult to photograph than many other animals in Paradise Valley.  They tend to run away from your car when you pull to the side of the road.



Some pronghorn migrate great distances.  The caribou is the only other North American  mammal to migrate farther.



Pronghorn horns are unique: a cross between antlers and horns.  Antlers are made of bone and shed every year.  Horns are comprised of keratin, and they are never shed.   But the sheath of pronghorn horns, made of Keratin, is shed every year.



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