The bambis, part 9: bleezes, flags, and semets in the bovid genus Raphicerus

...continued from

Also see

Dear reader, please toggle between the two photos in What do you notice, and what do you think the display means?

Now examine the following, which nicely shows the anti-predator context in which this display is deployed.

Are these individuals displaying their white buttocks to each other (as per the textbooks) or to the potential predator (in this case, the photographer, Tony Rebelo)?

The following is my interpretation of all of the various conspicuous features of colouration in the three spp. of Raphicerus (

BLEEZES (patterns of dark/pale colouration so conspicuous that they are obvious even when the figure is stationary, and even at a distance):

These are absent from all three spp. of Raphicerus (in contrast to e.g. Ourebia ourebi ourebi,

FLAGS (patterns of dark/pale colouration of moderate size, which become conspicuous only when activated by movement, of either a body part or the whole figure):

Auricular flags:

These are absent from all three spp. of Raphicerus (in contrast to e.g. Oreotragus saltatrixoides,

Buttock flags:

A buttock flag is present in Raphicerus campestris, but absent from the other two spp.

The following show the buttock flag not activated:

scroll to 6th photo in

The following show the buttock flag activated, while the figure is stationary in mild/initial alarm:

The following show the buttock flag activated, while fleeing:

Tibial flags:

Please see

Pedal flags:

A pedal flag is present in some subspecies/individuals of Raphicerus sharpei (see

It is possibly also present in some individuals of R. campestris:

Caudal flags:

These are absent from all three spp., the tails of which are small and plain-coloured.

SEMETS (patterns of relatively dark/relatively pale colouration of small size, conspicuous only at close range, and only when activated by movement of the body part concerned)

Auricular semets (see e.g.

These are absent from all three spp.

Buccal semets:

A buccal semet is possibly present in all three spp., consisting of

  • the darkness of the rhinarium, the rostrum adjacent to the rhinarium, and the bare edge of the lower lip, vs
  • the paleness of the pelage of the lips and, to various extents, the sides of the mandibles.

This buccal semet is, in human eyes, clearest in Raphicerus campestris:

It is least clear in Raphicerus melanotis:



The following is typical of the social setting in which the buccal semet hypothetically functions:

Pedal flags are poorly-developed in all spp. of Raphicerus, in contrast to certain coexisting species/subspecies such as Sylvicapra grimmia caffra (

The main feature of adaptively conspicuous colouration in Raphicerus is the buttock flag of R. campestris (

However, even this feature is subtle, in keeping with the emphasis on hiding from predators, wherever possible, in these diminutive ruminants.

This buttock flag is phylogenetically related to bleezes on the buttocks of gazelles (e.g. Nanger granti, In both Gazella and R. campestris, the pelage on the buttocks can be flared by piloerection, to enhance conspicuousness.

However, the buttock flag of R. campestris differs in at least three ways from those of gazelles, viz.

The following show the shift in the shape of the back, from

The following show the boosting in the conspicuousness of the white of the buttocks as the posture changes from unalarmed ( to mildly/initially alarmed ( and and

The following suggests that, as long as the hindquarters remain hunched, the buttock flag can hardly be displayed: What is needed is at least the posture shown in:

Posted by milewski milewski, September 25, 2022 22:15



The following show how Raphicerus campestris folds its ear pinnae back and down when mildly/initially alarmed in a position where evading detection, by the newly-arrived potential predator, remains possible.

This is often done asymmetrically, the ear pinnae being moved independently.

This is one of the most characteristic and frequently observed aspects of the behaviour of Raphicerus campestris. I have seen no evidence of its occurrence in R. melanotis. As for R. sharpei, I have not seen any photo showing this behaviour.

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)

The following ( shows that Raphicerus campestris does not activate the buttock flag in masculine rivalry, even when the action is hectic.

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)


From about minute 1:00, the following ( shows a particular display of the pedal flag in Sylvicapra grimmia caffra. The animal cross-walks in an exaggerated way, as if to stamp the feet rather than to locomote. I do not recall any mention of this behaviour in the literature.

Also please note that the tail remains inert.

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)

The following ( shows the action involved in displaying the buccal semet, in Raphicerus campestris.

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)

The following shows that the white fur of the buttock flag grows from skin that is darkly pigmented:

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)

The pattern on the hindquarters of Ourebia ourebi ourebi (scroll to two excellent photos in differs from that of Raphicerus campestris, in the following ways:
a) the white on the buttocks is permanently extensive and exposed, and is not flared,
b) the tail is conspicuously dark, contrasting with the white on the buttocks.

To my mind, the pattern in O. o. ourebi is aptly described as a bleeze.

It remains uncertain whether O. o. ourebi qualifies for a caudal flag. On one hand, the tail is indeed activated, i.e. raised, in the display. On the other hand, it would function as part of the display even if left inert.

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)

Here is a test for readers. In the following (, is the buttock flag activated or not?

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)

The following photo-sequence nicely shows the importance of GLOSS in the adaptive colouration of Raphicerus campestris campestris:

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)

The following hints at the presence of a pedal flag in Oreotragus:

Posted by milewski 2 months ago (Flag)

Evidence that the buttock flag is flared during distress, when the animal is snared:

Posted by milewski about 2 months ago (Flag)

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