Sunday, January 28, 2024

Four Horned Antelope (Chausingha)

Four Horned Antelope UPSC (Chausingha)

The Four-Horned Antelope, also known as chousingha, is a small and rare species of antelope found in parts of India and Nepal. As the name suggests, it is distinctive for having four horns, with the anterior pair being longer and situated above the eyes, while the posterior pair is shorter and located on the back of the head.

Table of Contents

  • Four Horned Antelope Characteristics
    • Classification
    • Scientific Name
    • Subspecies
    • Habitat
    • Physical Appearance
    • Diet
    • Behavior
    • Reproduction
    • Lifespan
  • Four Horned Antelope in India
  • Four Horned Antelope Protection Status
  • Four Horned Antelope Conservation
  • Threats
  • Four Horned Antelope UPSC Question

Four Horned Antelope Characteristics

What are the characteristics of the four-horned antelope?

The Four-Horned Antelope or chousingha possesses several distinctive characteristics:

1. Classification:

The Four-Horned Antelope belongs to the following taxonomic classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Subfamily: Bovinae
  • Genus: Tetracerus
  • Species: Tetracerus quadricornis

2. Scientific Name:

The scientific name for the Four-Horned Antelope is Tetracerus quadricornis.

3. Subspecies:

There are three recognized subspecies of the Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis), based on Colin Groves' classification (2003):

(i) T. q. iodes: This subspecies is distributed north of the Ganges in Nepal.

(ii) T. q. quadricornis: This subspecies is distributed in peninsular India.

(iii) T. q. subquadricornutus: This subspecies is distributed in the Western Ghats and southern India.

4. Habitat:

The Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) is known to inhabit a variety of environments, and its distribution spans different types of habitats in India and Nepal. Here are the general types of habitats where the Four-Horned Antelope is found:

(i) Grasslands:

They are known to inhabit grassy areas, including open grasslands and meadows. These habitats provide them with a source of food in the form of grasses.

(ii) Dry Deciduous Forests:

The antelopes are often found in dry deciduous forests. These forests typically experience a distinct dry season when many trees shed their leaves.

(iii) Scrublands:

Scrublands, characterized by low, often thorny vegetation, are another type of habitat where Four-Horned Antelopes can be found. Such areas may offer cover and suitable foraging opportunities.

(iv) Western Ghats:

In southern India, particularly in the Western Ghats region, the antelopes inhabit the hilly and forested areas. This region is characterized by lush vegetation and diverse ecosystems.

(v) Dense Undergrowth:

Regardless of the specific habitat, Four-Horned Antelopes are often associated with areas having dense undergrowth. They may use this cover for hiding and protection.

5. Physical Appearance:

The Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) has distinct physical characteristics that set it apart from other antelope species. Here are some key features of its physical appearance:

(i) Size and Weight:

The Four-Horned Antelope is one of the smallest Asian bovids, standing between 55–64 centimeters (22–25 inches) at the shoulder. Adult males typically weigh around 17–22 kilograms (37–49 pounds), and females are slightly smaller.

(ii) Four Horns:

The most notable feature is, of course, the presence of four horns. Only males possess horns. There are two pairs of horns—one pair located between the ears and the other on the forehead. The posterior horns are longer than the anterior ones. The posterior horns measure 8–12 centimeters (3.1–4.7 inches), while the anterior ones are 2–5 centimeters (0.79–1.97 inches) long. This characteristic makes them unique among antelopes.

(iii) Horn Development:

Horns start to emerge at 10 to 14 months of age. The development of anterior horns varies among subspecies, with T. q. quadricornis having longer anterior horns compared to T. q. subquadricornutus and T. q. iodes.

(iv) Coat Color:

The coat color ranges from yellowish brown to reddish. The undersides of the body and the insides of the legs are white.

(v) Body Structure:

They have a compact body with slender legs. The body structure is adapted for navigating through dense vegetation, as they are often found in areas with thick undergrowth.

(vi) Facial Features:

Four-Horned Antelopes have a relatively short face, and their eyes are positioned to provide a wide field of view, aiding in detecting predators. Facial features include black markings on the muzzle and behind the ears. A black stripe marks the outer surface of each leg.

(vii) Tail:

Their tails are relatively short, ending in a tuft of hair. The tail is not as long as those of some other antelope species.

6. Diet:

The Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) is primarily herbivorous, and its diet consists mainly of vegetation. Here are some aspects of the diet of the Four-Horned Antelope:

(i) Dietary Variety:

The Four-Horned Antelope is known to consume a diverse range of plant materials, including grasses, herbs, shrubs, foliage, flowers, and fruits. This varied diet suggests adaptability to different plant resources in its habitat.

(ii) Preference for Specific Plant Species:

Studies in Mudumalai National Park (Tamil Nadu, India) revealed preferences for specific plant species. Grasses from the family Cyperaceae and various genera such as Axonopus, Cynodon, Digitaria, Echinochloa, Panicum, Sehima, and Sporobolus were noted. The antelope also showed a preference for shrubs like Grewia hirsuta and specific herbs including Helichrysum, Indigofera, and Tinospora species, as well as Leucas aspera.

(iii) Tree Leaves and Foliage:

The Four-Horned Antelope feeds on the leaves of certain trees, including Cordia wallichii, Emblica officinalis, Randia dumetorum, and Zizyphus xylopyrus. Foliage from trees makes up a significant portion of its diet.

(iv) Percentage Composition:

Grasses constitute a substantial portion of the diet, comprising nearly 29 percent, followed by foliage from trees, which makes up nearly nine percent. The antelope maintains a balance between consuming grass and browse.

(v) Water Dependency:

The antelope has a high water dependency and needs to drink water frequently. As a result, it tends to stay in areas near water sources.

(vi) Behavioral Aspects:

The antelope exhibits wariness while feeding, often raising its head and being attentive to its surroundings. It also tends to associate with langurs under fruiting trees, similar to the way chital (spotted deer) do.

7. Behavior:

The behavior of the Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) encompasses various aspects of its daily activities, social structure, and interactions with its environment. Here are some key aspects of the behavior of the Four-Horned Antelope:

(i) Activity Pattern:

Four-Horned Antelopes are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They tend to rest or ruminate in dense undergrowth around noon.

(ii) Social Structure:

While naturally solitary, these antelopes may form loose groups of three to five individuals. These groups can include one or more adults, sometimes accompanied by juveniles. Interaction between males and females is limited, occurring mainly during the mating season.

(iii) Shyness and Elusiveness:

Four-Horned Antelopes are known for their shy and elusive nature. When alarmed, they may stand motionless or make nervous leaps or sprints to escape danger. They often hide in tall grasses to avoid predators.

(iv) Alarm Calls and Communication:

The use of alarm calls to alert others is not common, as these antelopes try to avoid drawing attention to themselves. However, in extreme cases, alarm calls may be used to warn predators that they have been detected. Adults mark vegetation in their territories with a colorless secretion from preorbital glands. They may also use multiple latrine sites, distinguishable from other species by the size and shape of their pellet droppings.

(v) Submissive Display:

Submissive behavior includes shrinking the body, lowering the head, and pulling the ears back. This display is a non-aggressive form of communication used within the species.

(vi) Feeding Behavior:

While feeding, the antelope is cautious and vigilant. It may browse on a variety of plant materials, including grasses, herbs, shrubs, foliage, flowers, and fruits. Studies have shown preferences for specific plant species.

(vii) Associations with Other Species:

The antelope has been observed associating with langurs under fruiting trees. Such associations with other species may provide mutual benefits, such as shared access to food resources.

(viii) Interaction with Chital:

While interaction with chital (spotted deer), a sympatric species, is infrequent, the behavior of the Four-Horned Antelope in proximity to other herbivores in the ecosystem can be dynamic and may involve competition for resources.

8. Reproduction:

The reproduction of the Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) involves specific behaviors and patterns related to mating, gestation, and the raising of offspring. Here are key aspects of the reproduction of Four-Horned Antelopes:

(i) Sexual Maturity:

The age at which Four-Horned Antelopes reach sexual maturity is not well-documented. In captivity, some females have been observed giving birth at less than two years of age, suggesting early sexual maturity.

(ii) Mating Season:

The specific season when mating occurs is not clearly defined, and information on the breeding behavior of Four-Horned Antelopes is limited. However, observations from different regions suggest that the breeding season may vary, possibly occurring from May to July in Panna National Park and from June to August in Mudumalai National Park.

(iii) Mating Behavior:

The male's approach to the female during mating involves a relaxed gait and low coughs. The two may engage in behaviors such as kneeling and pushing against each other with intertwined necks. The male may attempt short mountings, while the female may continue foraging without a significant reaction.

(iv) Gestation Period:

The gestation period for Four-Horned Antelopes lasts approximately eight months.

(v) Birth and Calves:

After the gestation period, one or two calves are born. Newborns have a head-and-body length ranging from 42 to 46 centimeters and weigh between 0.7 to 1.1 kilograms. Calves are kept concealed for the first few weeks after birth.

(vi) Maternal Care:

The young calves stay with their mothers for about a year, during which time they receive maternal care and protection. The mother plays a crucial role in the early development and survival of the offspring.

9. Lifespan:

They can live up to 10 years. In the wild, various factors, including predation, disease, environmental conditions, and resource availability, can influence the lifespan of these animals.

Four Horned Antelope in India

The Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) is confined to the Indian subcontinent, and its distribution covers various regions within India and adjoining Nepal. Here are key points about its range:

1. Geographical Range:

The range of the Four-Horned Antelope extends from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to the Deccan Plateau in the south. The majority of the population is found in India, with smaller numbers in adjoining Nepal.

2. Indian State:

It is found in states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. It is also reported in some areas of Nepal.

3. Protected Areas:

The antelope can be found in various wildlife reserves and national parks across its range. Some of the locations include Gir National Park in Gujarat, Bandhavgarh National Park, Bori Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanha National Park, Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Pench Tiger Reserve, Sanjay National Park, Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh, Tadoba Andhari Reserve in Maharashtra, and Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan.

4. Population Decline:

While it was once common throughout deciduous forests in India, the population of the Four-Horned Antelope has experienced a decline. Estimates in 2001 suggested slightly above 10,000 mature individuals, with a decreasing trend.

Four Horned Antelope Protection Status

The Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) is afforded legal protection in India, and its conservation status is recognized internationally. Here are key points regarding its protection status:

1. Legal Protection in India:

The species is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 in India. Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act provides the highest level of protection, and offenses related to species listed under this schedule typically incur severe penalties.

2. CITES Listing:

The Nepalese population of the Four-Horned Antelope is listed in Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is an international agreement aimed at ensuring that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

3. IUCN Conservation Status:

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has classified the Four-Horned Antelope as "Vulnerable." This classification indicates that the species is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Four Horned Antelope Conservation

Conservation efforts for the Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) focus on protecting its habitat, mitigating human-wildlife conflicts, and addressing threats such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and poaching. Here are some key aspects of conservation initiatives for this species:

1. Habitat Protection:

Conservation organizations and government agencies work to establish and manage protected areas where Four-Horned Antelopes can thrive. This includes national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and reserves that provide essential habitat and refuge for the species.

2. Anti-Poaching Measures:

Implementing and enforcing strict anti-poaching laws and patrols are essential for protecting Four-Horned Antelopes from illegal hunting and trade. Training and equipping rangers to patrol protected areas help deter poachers and safeguard antelope populations.

3. Community Engagement:

Engaging local communities living near antelope habitats is crucial for successful conservation. Collaborative efforts involving local stakeholders can lead to sustainable conservation solutions that benefit both people and wildlife. Community-based conservation initiatives may include livelihood projects, education programs, and incentives for conservation-friendly practices.

4. Research and Monitoring:

Conducting scientific research and monitoring programs provides valuable data on Four-Horned Antelope populations, habitat use, behavior, and threats. This information informs conservation strategies and helps evaluate the effectiveness of conservation efforts over time.

5. Habitat Restoration:

Restoring degraded habitats and creating wildlife corridors can help connect fragmented habitats, allowing antelope populations to disperse and access resources more freely. Reforestation, habitat rehabilitation, and land-use planning efforts contribute to habitat restoration initiatives.

6. Awareness and Education:

Raising awareness about the importance of conserving Four-Horned Antelopes and their habitats is essential for garnering public support and fostering a conservation ethic. Educational programs, outreach campaigns, and media initiatives inform people about the species' ecological significance and the threats it faces.

7. International Collaboration:

Collaboration between countries, conservation organizations, research institutions, and government agencies is essential for coordinated conservation efforts across the Four-Horned Antelope's range. Sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices enhances conservation outcomes and maximizes impact.


The Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) faces several threats that impact its population and habitat. Here are some of the primary threats to the species:

1. Habitat Loss and Fragmentation:

Clearing of forests for agriculture, logging, and human settlements reduces the available habitat for Four-Horned Antelopes. The fragmentation of habitats due to infrastructure development, roads, and urban expansion isolates populations and disrupts natural migration routes.

2. Human-Wildlife Conflict:

As human populations expand into wildlife habitats, there is an increased likelihood of conflicts between Four-Horned Antelopes and farmers. Crop raiding by these antelopes can lead to retaliatory actions by farmers.

3. Poaching:

The Four-Horned Antelope is targeted by poachers for its meat, skin, and horns. The demand for these products, often driven by traditional beliefs or the illegal wildlife trade, poses a significant threat to the species.

4. Trophy Hunting:

The Four-Horned Antelope's distinct feature of having four horns, including the unusual four-horned skull, makes it a target for trophy hunters. The demand for these unique characteristics contributes to the pressure on antelope populations.

5. Invasive Species:

The introduction of invasive plant species and animals can alter the composition of natural habitats, affecting the antelope's food sources and exposing them to new predators.

6. Lack of Awareness and Conservation Measures:

The Four-Horned Antelope may not receive adequate conservation attention compared to more iconic or high-profile species. Limited awareness and resources for its conservation may hinder effective protection.

Four Horned Antelope UPSC Question

Q. What is a four-horned antelope in India?

A. The Four-Horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) is a species of antelope found in the Indian subcontinent. 

Q. What is the common name for the four-horned antelope?/What is the four-horned antelope also known as?

A. The common name for the four-horned antelope is, unsurprisingly, the "four-horned antelope." It is also known as the "chousingha" or "chausingha." The name "chousingha" is derived from the Hindi words "chau," meaning four, and "singha," meaning horn. This name aptly reflects the distinctive feature of this antelope having four horns.

Q. Four-horned antelope found in which national park?

A. Here is a list of national parks in India where the four-horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) is reported to be found:

  • Gir National Park (Gujarat)
  • Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Bori Wildlife Sanctuary (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Panna Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Pench Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra)
  • Sanjay National Park (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Satpura National Park (Madhya Pradesh)

Q. Which is the four-horned antelope wildlife sanctuary in India?

A. The Rangayyanadurga Four Horned Antelope Wildlife Sanctuary, situated in the state of Karnataka, is the four-horned antelope wildlife sanctuary in India.

Q. What is the IUCN status of the four-horned antelope?

A. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the four-horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) as "Vulnerable." This designation indicates that the species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. The vulnerability status underscores the importance of conservation efforts to address the various threats that the four-horned antelope faces, including habitat loss, fragmentation, and hunting.

Four Horned Antelope (Chausingha)

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