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The Impala

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Fig 1: The Impala

The impala or Southern impala is found in woodlands and sometimes on the interface between woodlands and savannah; it inhabits places close to water and is atrophy most hunters take on their first African hunt. The smooth skin and two-tone red coloration make for a unique trophy.

Taxonomy notes:

Usually two subspecies are distinguished; namely the common impala Aepycerosmelampusmelampus) and the black-faced impala (Aepycerosmelampuspetersi).Common names: Common Impala, Impala (English), Rooibok (Afrikaans), Mhara (Shona), Phala (Sotho,Tswana, Venda), Impala (Zulu)

Fig 1: The Impala


The impala is a medium-sized, slender antelope. The horns, strongly ridged and divergent, are circular in section and hollow at the base. The glossy coat of the impala shows two-tone colouration – the reddish brown back and the tan flanks which are in sharp contrast to the white underbelly. Facial features include white rings around the eyes and a light chin and snout of the subspecies, the black-faced impala is significantly larger and darker than the common impala.

Fig 2: Horn Growth and size charts.


The range extends from central and southern Kenya and north-eastern Uganda; in the east to northern KwaZulu-Natal in the south, and westward up to Namibia and southern Angola. This lovely antelope was also introduced to other areas on game ranges and farms.

Fig 3: Distribution in South Africa.

Interesting facts

Impala antelope have unique black glands on their ankles known as metatarsal glands. When threatened by predators, they scatter in all directions and they kick back their hind legs and release a scent which makes it easier to find each other again once the threat is over. This behaviour has an added advantage of confusing the predator

Fig 4: Scenting glands.

Habitats and Ecology

The impala is active throughout the day and night, alternating resting and grazing, and drinking at least once a day. The impala inhabits woodlands or interface between woodlands and savannah, due to its preference for shade, it needs to be close to water, and also are seasonal feeders. Impala tend to keep away from areas with tall grasses as predators could be concealed there.

Natural enemies are lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dogs and the locational hyena.

Fig 5: Natural Predators.


Like most wild animals, the impala’s behaviours are mostly centred around feeding and reproduction. The mother–calf bond is weak, and breaks soon after weaning; juveniles leave the herds of their mothers to join other herds. Allogrooming is an important means of social interaction in bachelor and female herds; in fact, the impala appears to be the only ungulate to display self-grooming as well as allogrooming.

Fig 6: Impala mom and calve

Types of herds

Although impala tend to be fairly social for most of the year, they break off into subgroups during the rut, or mating season. Impala typically form three types of herds: all-female herds (often led by a territorial male who may be replaced multiple times), bachelor herds, and mixed-sex family herds led by territorial males and temporary nursing herds with 1 or 2 females.

Fig 7: Different types of herds.

Hunting Impala

Hunting is done by setting up ambushes and walk and stalk techniques.It can jump as high as 3 meters, even jumping over other individuals, and covering a distance of 10 meters.

Fig 8: Shot placement.

The Impala Trophy

Your impala ram trophy should have an average shoulder height of around 46 inches, weigh about 130 pounds, and have a horn length of approximately 22 inches. The minimum Safari Club International score for an impala is 52. The trophy is measured by adding the length of each horn and the circumference of the bases.

Fig 9: The Skull.

Hunting the Black Impala

Black impala is a color variant of the southern impala. A great trophy to add while on hunting safari and a must for any collector interested in collecting both of the impala color variations.The black impala is not a subspecies, but a color phase of the southern impala. Black impala was developed by selective breeding; the color of the skin is all black.

Fig 10: The Black Impala.

Smithers, RHN, 1983. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 1st edn. University of Pretoria, CTP
Book Printers, Cape Town.
New World Encyclopedia,
Brent Huffman,,,