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Skulls of Antelopes and Buffalo

Overview

At the top of our skull wall hangs a trophy of a male African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) .

From the top right to the bottom left you can see five skulls of the SableAntelope (Hippotragus niger), three horns of the Waterbuck (Kobus spec.) and five trophies of the Hartebeest.

To the left of the skull of the African Buffalo hangs one horn of of the Common Eland (Taurotragus oryx) and one horn of the Gemsbock (Oryx Gazella).

All the trophies come from East Africa and were hunted or acquired in the context of St. Ottilien’s missions and brought to the Missionsmuseum.

On the biology of horns:

You may wonder what purpose such very heavy "head ornaments" should have in individual cases. An African Buffalo’s head weighs 100kg. This weight must also be held by the neck muscles which gives the male animals the famous "bull's neck". The direct purpose of the head constructions is the fight which is rarely about life or death, but generally about rank. It is a so-called ritualized fight in which the animals push each other.

The rule among males is: the weaker gives in – the stronger gets the female. The female animals, on the other hand, look closely at the males. The bigger the overall appearance, in particular the horns, and the better the results in the tournament among the male sex comrades, the more attractive. The more attractive one is allowed to mate. Thus, in the long run, it is the female animals that ensure that the genes for ever larger horns prevail – until other selection pressures put an end to the evolutionary trend of "more spectacular".

Large horns mean an enormous consumption of energy and material: whereas the horn sheath is made of pure protein, the cone in the horn is living bone, again another "expensive" material, namely minerals and protein.

African Buffalo were among the "Big Five" of the African hunting safari: the five most impressive and at the same time most difficult species to hunt were, apart from the buffalo, the elephant, rhinoceros, lion and leopard. African Buffalo are considered to be unpredictable. They can also become dangerous to tourists, especially when you approach male animals and they feel attacked.