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Kobus ellipsiprymnus [Ogilby, 1833]

  • Citation: Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1833:47
  • Type locality: South Africa, between Lataku (near Kuruman) and W coast of Africa, N of Orange River, on Molopo River

General Characteristics

  • Body Length: 180-220 cm / 6-7.3 ft.
  • Shoulder Height: 100-130 cm / 3.3-4.3 ft.
  • Tail Length: 22-45 cm / 8.8-18 in.
  • Weight: 150-250 kg / 330-550 lb.

The shaggy, coarse coat is reddish brown to grizzled grey in colour, darkening with age. Facial markings are composed of a white muzzle, lighter eyebrows and insides of the ears, while there is a cream-coloured ”bib” on the throat. The most conspicuous feature of this antelope is a large white ”halo” or hollow ring which surrounds the base of the tail on the rump (in certain subspecies, most notably the Defassa waterbuck K. e. defassa, the area within the circle is covered with white hair, creating a rump patch. The body is heavyset, and the strong legs are black in colour. The heavily ridged horns are found only in males and sweep in an arc backwards and upwards, with the tips pointing forwards. They grow 55-100 cm / 1.6-3.3 feet long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

  • Gestation Period: 8.5-9 months
  • Young per Birth: 1, rarely 2
  • Weaning: After 6-7 months
  • Sexual Maturity: Females at 12-14 months, males at 14-18 months
  • Life span: Up to 18 years

Most births occur during the wetter seasons (August and November) After birth, the young lie concealed and away from their mothers for at least 2 weeks. After joining the herd, the young follow their mother, who raises her tail as a ”follow me” signal, emphasized by the white rump ring.

Ecology and Behavior

As it name would suggest, the waterbuck is a good swimmer and flees into water if pursued, although it is reported that they do not actually like going into water. At 7-9 months, males are driven from their maternal family and join up with a bachelor herd. These groups have a distinct social hierarchy based on size and strength, and contests are frequent. Around 6-7 years, males become territorial, staking out areas of 150-625 acres and defending them against mature rivals with posturing and fights. These territories are maintained throughout the year, and a male is generally overthrown before he reaches 10 years of age. Only about 5-10 % of mature males are territorial at the same time. Female groups wander over a home range of 200-600 hectares, which may be kept for up to 8 years and encompasses several male territories. Population densities in Uganda vary from 0.15-17.8 animals per square kilometer.

  • Family group: Male, female, and mixed groups of up to 30 animals
  • Diet: Grasses, reeds, leaves
  • Main Predators: Lion, leopard, hyena, Cape hunting dog


Scrub, savanna, and woodlands near water in sub-Saharan west Africa and most of central and eastern Africa.

Conservation Status

The waterbuck is classified as a low risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (1996). Both the Defassa waterbuck, K. e. defassa, and the common or ellipsen waterbuck, K. e. ellipsiprymnus, fall under this classifiaction as well.

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