Bontebok are medium-sized antelope standing about 0,9 m at the shoulders. Adult males have a mean mass of 61,0 kg while females are lighter and slightly smaller. It is difficult to recognise the sexes in the field, except that the horns of the females are more slender than those of the males and hardly thicken up at the base. The adult males are generally darker in colour and their white scrotums are conspicuous.
At close quarters the back is seen to be rust-brown in colour. The crown of the head, the sides of the face and neck, the flanks, thighs and front portion of the rump and upper parts of the limbs are dark brown to nearly black. The sides of the face and neck, the flanks and the upper parts of the limbs are glossed with a purple sheen. The front of the face is white from the base of the horns to the nose, this blaze narrowing just above the eyes.
Bontebok live in a narrow sector of coastal plains at an altitude of from 60 to 200 m above sea level within the Cape fynbos zone, a sandy, alluvial plain with stony ridges and gravel terraces. The plain provides the grasses on which they feed. Water is an essential habitat requirement and is found in the many small streams and rivers which occur and whose banks provide.
Bontebok are short-day seasonal breeders, mating in early autumn and the rut takes place between the months of January to mid-March, with some activity continuing until April. The territorial males court the females with a display involving tail over the back and holding the head low with outstretched and the tail horizontal. Flehmen does not occur in bontebok. A male may sniff the vulva of a female and if she is not receptive she will run around him closely to avoid his attentions.
During this “mating circling” the female holds her head low in the submissive attitude. During the rut the frequency of the courtship display may be as high as once an hour, but is not confined to the period of the rut and may be performed in all seasons of the year. When the male performs to females about to leave a territory, it may actuate them to remain. The annual cycle in the male matches that in the female.