Watch This Gazelle Spring Across the African Savanna Like a Pogo Stick - Atlas Obscura
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Watch This Gazelle Spring Across the African Savanna Like a Pogo Stick

Gazelles’ “stotting” or “pronking” behavior may be a defense signal to predators.

Out in the open plains and savannas in Central Kalahari, Africa, this young springbok jumps between members of the herd, popping up high above the tall grass. This specific springing pattern often seen among antelopes, such as the springbok, and other deer is known as “stotting” or “pronking.”      

Pronking involves a series of repeated jumps. When the animal springs up, all four legs are kept stiff and the back is curved. While the display isn’t as graceful as a leap or bound, pronking is quite entertaining to witness as the people recording the footage above chuckle in amusement. The springbok in the clip jumps up in place, but can also shoot off in different directions like someone losing control over his or her jumping on a pogo stick.  

Since springboks and gazelles in Africa dwell in large herds in wide-open spaces, they are visible to cheetahs, wild dogs, and other predators. Yet, pronking is most often seen when the animal is startled by a predator. The peculiar behavior has baffled scientists since it makes individuals even more vulnerable and easily spotted. Pronking is energy-draining, and is not as fast as running—nimble-framed gazelles can reach speeds up to 60 miles per hour in short bursts.   

Scientists have tossed around several explanations for pronking, from it being a signal to others in the herd when a predator approaches to a confusion tactic if multiple springboks pronk at once. The most popular theory is that springboks pronk to show off to predators. A pronking springbok signals to an approaching predator that the individual has a ton of energy to spare, and it would be costly to chase, BBC Nature reports.

To learn more about animal jumping behaviors, take a look at our deep dive into pronking, bounding, and leaping.

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