“Pronking” sounds like a dance move—and it serves a similar purpose in the animal world. A signature move of antelopes, pronking involves leaping with all four feet in the air—both a pleasure to watch, and evolutionarily useful. The spritely move helps stave off predators, and displays the animal’s fitness, which is always helpful in attracting a mate. Blackbucks are fast runners, and can outrun most predators except for the cheetah, now extinct in India.
To mate, a male blackbuck has to stake his territory, which he does by marking boundaries with pee and poop, and by pawing at the edges of their turf with their hooves. Adult males, with their chocolate brown coats, pursue the females (smaller, fawn-coloured and usually hornless) through the year, but breeding gets especially fierce around March-April and between August and October. At these times, rival males lock horns for mating rights, engaging in short, sharp clashes that can run into days until one gracefully backs down.
Catch them in action at Gujarat’s Velavadar National Park, a former royal gaming ground that has been instrumental in helping the near-threatened species bound back from habitat loss and hunting over the last century. Over 5,000 blackbucks roam here, across India’s only tropical grasslands national park. Come mid-October, the park re-opens with fresh green grass that will gradually burn out to yellow, its straight lines occasionally broken by the spiralling horns of a blackbuck testing the breeze.
See Them Here The blackbuck is the star of Gujarat’s Velavadar National Park (closed from mid-June to Oct 14; more here). It can also be spotted at protected areas like the Bishnoi villages in Rajasthan, and at Tamil Nadu’s Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary.