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One of a group of ruminant quadrupeds, intermediate between the deer and goat. The horns of the antelope are almost always round, and annulated, or ringed. The prong-horn antelope (Antilocapra Americana) is found across the western part of North America, form the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast. The common antelope of the eastern continent is the A. cervicapra. The eyes of some species, as the gazelle, are large, black, and of exquisite beauty and vivacity, and are therefore a favorite with the Eastern poets. — Webster, 1882

Thirty antelopes were seen in one flock, south of town, Sunday. — Kingsbury County News, De Smet, Dakota Territory, April 5, 1880.

noteAccording to early settlers in Kingsbury County, antelope were frequently seen in large herds, especially around the lakes. Delos Perry, father of Clyde Perry, Laura Ingalls’ student in the Perry School of 1885, wrote that when he first came to the county in the spring of 1878, they came upon a herd of antelope that ran up a low rise and stopped to look back at the men and wagons, then bound away quickly and were not seen again that day.

Even though Laura Ingalls Wilder describes an unsuccessful antelope hunt in both her Hard Winter manuscript and published The Long Winter, she told a different story to daughter Rose, saying that Pa did kill an antelope that day, but it was thin and poor. Other men spending that winter in De Smet did manage to hunt and kill many more antelope, and remembered the sport of hunting and many meals made out of beans and antelope that winter. A story survived among the early settlers that herds of antelope would congregate in the slough east of town, where they could still find hay to eat. The men would follow the tracks to hunt them, which made meat for the settlers well into March, and all winter they were still making soup from the bones of the antelope. Some settlers had the idea of catching young antelope and fattening them up in the barn; whether this was done or not is unknown, but it was said that Mrs. Boast had a pet antelope that rode around town with her, sitting upon her lap like a dog!

The Little House books’ antelope (Antilocapra americana) is native to the Dakotas but not a true antelope at all. It is called antelope because it closely resembles the true antelope of Asia and Eurasia. Adult animals weigh from 90 to 150 pounds and can live for about eleven years. They live in herds on open grassland. Pronghorn antelope are quite plentiful in South Dakota today and are hunted by bow from mid-August through October, except during that part of October in which they may be hunted by firearm. They are naturally curious and – as described above – will often run to the top of a rise and pause to look back. Antelope are swift runners able of reaching speeds up to sixty miles per hour. Horses bred for racing run up to fifty miles per hour, so it’s interesting to ponder the idea that Almanzo Wilder’s horse, Lady, could outrun an antelope!


antelope (LHP 4, 20; BPC 36; SSL 15; TLW 20, 23; THGY 13, 20; PG)
     herd (TLW 20; LTP 8; PG)
     hide and bones (LHP 20)