Animals -> Mammals -> Hoofed Mammals -> Pronghorn


Pronghorn, also commonly referred to as antelope, was used in different ways by different cultures. Pronghorns, which were particularly abundant in the hunting region of Plains cultures, were an important food source for the Kootenai [1], Salishan Sanpoil [2], Assiniboine, Rapid, Blackfoot and a supplemental food source for the Plains Cree, Shuswap and the Flathead Kutenai (Kootenai) [3-7]. Pronghorn antelope is also reported to have been consumed by the Plains cultures, Plains Ojibwa (Chippewa) of the Turtle Mountain Band and Mid-Columbia Indians [8-10]. Pronghorn is believed to have also been eaten by the Southern Okanagan [11], Spokane, Okanagan-Colville, Salish and Crow [12-15]. In earlier literature, David Thompson frequently spoke of “antelopes” in the Kootenai region in the early 19th century, but in the majority of cases he was referring to white-tailed deer [16]. Pronghorn was hunted by the Colville on the southern part of Columbia River [12]. The animal was also found in areas inhabited by the Assiniboine, Rapid, Cree and Blackfoot, making it a prime food source [4]. Pronghorn were also abundant in the Salishan Sanpoil region, also making it a principal food source. Pronghorn were sparse in the plains areas hunted by the Mid-Columbia Indians, but abundant south of the large curve of the Columbia River; a popular region for hunting the animal was in the region of Grand Coulee [2]. Pronghorn played a minor role in the Shuswap diet because it was not present in nearby areas. However, a few Shuswap would hunt them east of the Rocky Mountains [6].

Although smaller than other hoofed mammals, pronghorns were among the larger animals harvested by many cultures [9]. Pronghorn was often hunted in groups. The Crow would drive animals towards enclosures where they would be killed [13]. The Sanpoil and possibly the Sinkayuse, two subgroups of the Middle Columbia River Salish, hunted them using communal drives, conducted by men. A leader would organize the activities, assign duties, and select some men to drive the pronghorn towards the others who waited toward the end of a canyon or draw. After harvest, women prepared the hides [14]. Mounted on horses, the hunters could easily surround a herd and slaughter at close range using repeating firearms. In earlier times antelope was killed with lance, bow and arrow [10]. The bows were typically made of hard wood oak, backed with sinew to ensure greater strength, and strung with rawhide. Arrows were typically made of arrow bush wood, otherwise known as serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia). Arrows were stabilized with hawk flight feathers fastened with hemp cord and wrapped with spruce pitch.

Spokane men hunted pronghorns in groups using techniques such as animal drives, jumps and surrounds. One type of surround involved a group of 30 to 40 men who would form a circle, gradually reducing the size of the circle while yelling and waving their arms, driving the pronghorn to a peak where it would be killed with bow and arrow. In the fall, they were hunted by large groups of men who drove them over cliffs or into narrow canyons where permanent barriers had been strategically constructed. Another method involved erecting permanent channel walls, which steered the animal towards loose basalt talus fields, which served to halt and cripple the pronghorn. Other techniques involved the use of smoke and moving hide or feather wands to lure them to close range for them to be shot with bow and arrow [15].

The Salishan Sanpoil used communal hunting to drive pronghorn into ambush. Other methods included disguising themselves as familiar animals and imitating its actions [2]. Kootenai men hunted pronghorn using bow and arrow, later switching to guns [1].

The Assiniboine, Rapid, Cree and Blackfoot boiled pronghorn meat using kettles made of brass, copper or tin, or bark vessels. When bark kettles were used, it was common to use heated stones to bring the water to boil. Pronghorn was also roasted using skewers: the skewer was pushed into the ground at an angle so that the meat faced the fire and then was intermittently turned to complete roasting [4].

Pronghorn has been featured in Crow legends where mythological heroes easily win the favor of potential helpers by leaving pronghorn carcasses on the doorstep [13]. 


1.         Brunton BB: Kootenai. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. edn. Edited by Walker DE, Jr. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1998: 223-228.

2.         Teit J: The Salishan Tribes of the Western Plateau. In: The Salishan Tribes of the Western Plateaus. vol. 45. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology 1930.

3.         Driver HE: Indians of North America, vol. second. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 1969.

4.         Harmon DW. In: Sixteen Years in the Indian Country The Journal of DW Harmon. edn. Edited by Lamb WK. Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited; 1957.

5.         Sinclair HM: The Diet of Canadian Indians and Eskimos. British Journal of Nutrition 1952, 6:69-82.

6.         Teit JA: The Shuswap, vol. Series: American Museum of Natural Histroy ( The Jesup North Pacific Expedition). New York: AMS PRESS INC.; 1975.

7.         Wein EE: The Traditional Food Supply of Native Canadians. Canadian Home Economics Journal 1994, 44(2):74-77.

8.         Howard JH: The Plains Ojibwa or Bungi: Hunters and Warriors of the Northern Prairies with special reference to the Turtle Mountain Band, vol. Series: Anthropological papers (no.1). Vemilion, South Dakota: South Dakota Musem, University of South Dakota; 1965.

9.         Hunn E, Selam J, family: Animal and Plant Resources. In: Nch'i-W na "The Big River", Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land. edn. Seattle: University of Washington Press; 1990.

10.       Newcomb WW: North American Indians: An Anthropological Perspective. Pacific Palisades, California: Goodyear Publishing Company, Inc.; 1974.

11.       Post RH: The Subsistence Quest. In: The Sinkaietk or Southern Okanagan of Washington. edn. Edited by Spier L. Menasha, Wisconsin, U. S. A.: George Banta Publishing Company Agent; 1938: 11-33.

12.       Kennedy D, Bouchard RT: Northern Okanagan, Lakes, and Colville. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. edn. Edited by Walker DE, Jr. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1998: 238-252.

13.       Lowie RH: The Workaday World. In: The Crow Indians. Volume 2, edn. New York: Rinehart & Company, Inc.; 1956.

14.       Miller J: Middle Columbia River Salishans. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. edn. Edited by Walker DE, Jr. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1998: 253-270.

15.       Ross JA: Spokane. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. edn. Edited by Walker DE, Jr. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1998: 271-282.

16.       Johnson OW: Flathead and Kootenay, the Rivers, the Tribes and the Region's Traders. Glendale, Calif.: A.H. Clark Co.; 1969.

The pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) is a medium-sized hoofed mammals only found in dry open areas, including brushlands, grasslands, and deserts, of interior western and central North America. In Canada, pronghorn occur only in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Pronghorns represent the single living species of its family and are most closely related to cattle, sheep, and goat (Bovidae family). They are quite unique in that they somehow look like an African antelope and grow on their head something that is quite different from bovid horns or deer antlers, what are called prongs. It is similar to bovid horns with its permanent bony core covered with a horny sheath, but unlike horns, the horny sheath is branched with a pointy tine and shed annually, more like antler velvet. Both sexes can have prongs, but females have smaller un-branched ones.

Pronghorns are light brown with a distinctive white neck, underside, and rump, and darker brown markings on the face. Pronghorns are smaller than most deer and adults typically weigh 47 kg with males being only slightly bigger than females. They can live for up to ten years, females generally living longer than males. Pronghorns are great runners and can attain speeds over 70km/hr to escape predators, mainly coyote, pursuing them in wide open areas with no dense or tall cover to hide to. They feed mainly on grasses, forbs, and shrubs, but often include cactus in their diet.

Pronghorn abundance was once in the order of tens of million, but population were reduced by agriculture and over-harvesting to only a few thousand individuals by 1925. After translocation and harvest management efforts, pronghorn populations have followed an irruptive increasing trend and have recently reached over 800,000 individuals.


O'Gara BW, Yoakum JD: Pronghorn: ecology and management. Boulder: University Press of Colorado; 2004.


Images provided below were obtained from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - North American Mammals. Available from

Pronghorn - female, right; male, left
Credit: painting by Elizabeth McClelland from Kays and Wilson's Mammals of North America, © Princeton University Press (2002)

Credit: Data provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Bruce Patterson, Wes Sechrest, Marcelo Tognelli, Gerardo Ceballos, The Nature Conservancy — Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International — CABS, World Wildlife Fund — US, and Environment Canada — WILDSPACE.

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