Although the pronghorn is called an "antelope" by some, it is not closely related to them, in fact, it is the only species in its family. Pronghorns are animals of the prairie and once roamed the plains along with the American bison. Now found in Texas only in the deserts of the Trans-pecos and the high plains of the Panhandle, the pronghorn is a unique animal in many ways.
The pronghorn is the only animal in the world with horns that branch and the only horned animal that sheds them every year as though they were antlers. Both males and females can have horns, but the male has much larger horns and the female horn is seldom branched or pronged.
The pronghorn is considered the fastest land mammal in North America, clocked at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and can maintain a relatively high speed for hours. They have excellent vision which helps them to see vast distances of wide open prairie. Though they run very fast, and can jump small obstacles, they tend to resist jumping even low fences, preferring to climb between or under them instead. This tendency may have played a major role in the reduction of pronghorn numbers from their historic range.
It is estimated that in the mid-1800s, Pronghorn numbered in the many million, second only to the American Bison. About 50 years ago, the total United States population of pronghorn antelope was only about 12,000. Today, habitat restoration and restocking programs have helped increase pronghorn populations to more than 1,100,000.
Pronghorns display an enormous sense of curiosity uncommon in wild communities. They will investigate at close range any strange and unfamiliar object especially one in motion. Early native Americans and even modern hunters learned you could lure a pronghorn by hiding in a bush while waving a stick or cloth and the pronghorn would draw near to see the source of the movement.
Pronghorn can detect movement up to 4 miles away. When alerted to danger, they contract their rump muscles causing their white rump hairs to stand on end, which other Pronghorn may detect from 2 miles away. At the same time, they exude a musky odor, which can be detected for more than a mile.
Some of the best places to see Pronghorn are just south of Marfa, Texas and between Alpine and Fort Davis, Texas. There is a resident population that lives just south of Marfa and a more mobile population that can often be seen grazing alongside cattle on the plains north of Alpine on both sides of the road leading to Fort Davis.