According to Dr Quentin Cambell, the tip of South Africa was known to seafarers as the fairest Cape, but also as the Cape of Storms. These divergent opinions also apply to the rest of Southern Africa with its widely divergent climatic conditions and ecosystems. Although extremely beautiful, the natural environment of South Africa is also a cauldron containing a witches™ brew that tests all living organisms to the utmost. These variable but exacting conditions, however, also created the greatest and most beautiful collection of game animals and indigenous farm animals in the world.
Opperman (1952) described the interaction between animals and plants and the environment as follows: These limiting factors make definite and inexorable demands which in South Africa, with its relatively changeable difficult and exacting conditions such as irregular and mostly low rainfall, create a definite pattern or fundamental standard. An organism which adapts itself to this pattern with difficulty or weakly, will suffer distress. In proportion to the degree the vegetation and animal life deviates from the requisite pattern they will endure discomfort and degenerate and in the long run become extinct. Three factors - temperature, humidity and light “ rule supreme and in South Africa they are generally speaking stern masters who are apt to go to extremes, and cause shocks to vegetation and animal life. Sometimes these shocks are difficult to endure and therefore indigenous animals are of a definite and distinctive pattern.
Opperman (op.cit.) continued: The Springbok, the recognized emblem of South Africa, has a definite form or pattern. This applies to other indigenous game animals such as the kudu, impala, blue wildebeest and others. Characteristics and qualities such as light-footedness; mobility; lively posture; a short, smooth, glossy covering of hair “ varying from dun-colour to reddish brown “ a roomy, loose, relatively thick skin and dark pigmentation; lean long shapely flat legs; a lean skull; strong, large and well-developed back, loins and buttock muscles; a slightly hanging rump “ all these are very definitely apparent.