Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus)


Family:                    Bovidae.

Status:                     Endangered.

Size:                        4 to 5 ft at shoulder; weight 220 to 500 lbs.

Diet:                        Herbivore.

Characteristics:        Social.

Area:                       Africa.

Offspring:                One.

Predators:               Spotted hyena, jackal, leopard, cheetah and lion.



·       Hartebeest is an Afrikaans word meaning “tough ox.”

·       Female herds are made up of a mother, her female children and grandchildren.

·       Hartebeests are gregarious and herds sometimes intermingle with zebra and wildebeest herds.



Hartebeests live in large herds of up to 300, made up of smaller groups that are separated into young males; females and their young; territorial males and non-territorial males. They live mainly in grasslands and savannas because 80% to 95% of their food intake is grass. Both males and females have similar appearances, although males are slightly larger. They both have horns with an S-shaped curve, long faces, reddish brown fur, and white or black areas along the legs. When a predator approaches the herd, one or more hartebeest gives off an alarm snort and they gallop away in single file at speeds of 40 to 50 mph. They do not migrate, but will move locations if conditions become severe, as in the case of a drought. Although generally non-aggressive except during mating season, when closely confined they become unruly both with other hartebeests and with people and for that reason, they’re not found in many zoos. They’re active both during the day and at night, and because of their tendency to forage for food in the open, their numbers have been greatly reduced due to hunting.



Hartebeests were once the widest-ranging antelopes in Africa, but hunting, urban development and competition with domestic herds of cattle have limited their range and numbers. They’re now found only in select portions of African countries such as Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania. A subspecies, the bubal hartebeest that once ranged through Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia became extinct in the nineteenth century. The South African hartebeest is also extinct and Swayne’s hartebeest is close to becoming extinct. Several national parks and reserves in Africa are now home to hartebeests.



Females will leave the herd and find a secluded area surrounded by brush and long grass when they’re about to give birth. Pregnancy lasts 7 to 8 months and one calf is born. The calf lies quietly in its hiding place while its mother feeds, returning several times per day to nurse. The mother and calf join the herd a few weeks later, when the calf is better able to walk and run. Calves are weaned at four months and young males stay with their mothers for two to three years, when their horns are fully developed, before leaving to join a bachelor group. Full size is reached by the age of four. Females stay by their mothers’ sides for life. The hartebeest has a lifespan of 11 to 20 years.