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Cattle Antelopes Bison Buffaloes Goats and Sheep: Bovidae - Black Wildebeest (connochaetes Gnou): Species Accounts

males females short feet

Physical characteristics: Also known as the gnu, this bovid weighs 242 to 396 pounds (110 to 180 kilograms) and measures 5.6 to 7.3 feet (170 to 220 centimeters) long. Shoulder height of 3 to 4 feet (90 to 120 centimeters). Females are slightly smaller than males. Coats are dark brown to black, with males darker than females. A short mane on neck stands up and is whitish with black tips. The beard is black.


Geographic range: The black wildebeest lives in east-central South Africa.


Habitat: This bovid lives primarily in open grassland where water is available.

Black wildebeest females and young live in herds, while males form their own groups. (Illustration by Patricia Ferrer. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Prefers short grasses but is known to browse on bushes and other vegetation to supplement the winter diet. Need to drink every one to two days.


Behavior and reproduction: Females and young form herds while males form their own groups. Males will defend territories during mating season by horn wrestling and loud vocalizations. Some are migratory.

Males "perfume" themselves for courtship by rolling in their urine and dung. They further draw attention to themselves by bellowing out a "ge-nu" call, foaming at the mouth, and dashing madly around while shaking their heads.

Mates from February through April, and after a gestation period of 240 to 270 days, females give birth to a single calf. Young walk within ten minutes of birth and are nursed for about four months. Females are ready to breed between eighteen and thirty months, males at three years. Lifespan in captivity is around twenty years. Lion and hyenas will take down lame or sick adults, and babies fall prey to wild dogs, leopards, and cheetahs.


Black wildebeest and people: Settlers viewed this bovid as a pest and did their best to kill them all. They used their tails as fly swatters.


Conservation status: Extinct in the wild, but captive black wildebeest populations are abundant, so they are not considered threatened. ∎

Cattle Antelopes Bison Buffaloes Goats and Sheep: Bovidae - Thomson's Gazelle (gazella Thomsonii): Species Accounts [next] [back] Cattle Antelopes Bison Buffaloes Goats and Sheep: Bovidae - American Bison (bison Bison): Species Accounts

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