Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)


Family:                    Bovidae.

Status:                     No special status.

Size:                        Length 5 to 8 ft.; 3 to 4 ft. at shoulder; 300 to 600 lbs.

Diet:                        Herbivore.

Characteristics:        Social, migratory.

Area:                       Africa.

Offspring:                One calf.

Predators:               Lion, hyena, cheetah, leopard.



·       The wildebeest is a large antelope, also known as a gnu.

·       Its appearance and behaviour led South African Dutch settlers to name the animal wildebeest (wild beast).

·       The scientific name means “flowing beard” (Connochaetes) “like a bull” (taurinus).

·       The white-tailed wildebeest is extinct in the wild, but exists in several national parks and reserves.


Wildebeests live in migratory herds of as many as 100, and graze on grass and brush on open plans. Both males and females have curved horns. Fast runners, wildebeests will dash away when alarmed, then turn to see what it was that startled them, tossing their heads and prancing in a display of annoyance. Wildebeests are water dependent and need to drink at least every other day during the dry season. During the rainy season, they don’t need to drink as often because of the moisture they get on the plants and grasses they eat. Wildebeests are famous for the massive migrations they undertake; however, not all wildebeests migrate every year if food is abundant. The migration itself is dangerous, because they cross fast flowing rivers and many wildebeests don’t make it across and are drowned. Wildebeests are extremely sociable and gregarious, and spend a good portion of the day mingling and interacting with the rest of the herd. The rest of the day is spent eating and resting. Wildebeests are active both during the day and night, resting for several hours during the midday when the sun is hottest. The wildebeest is an odd looking animal, with legs, mane and tail resembling that of a horse; a head which seems to be a combination of a cow and a horse; the body of a cow and horns like a buffalo. They’re often seen in the company of zebras, who are quicker to become aware of danger, consequently alerting the wildebeests as well. 



The range of the wildebeest extends from the plains and grasslands of Kenya in eastern Africa to northern South Africa.



The wildebeests’ breeding season lasts only three weeks, and a male will try to mate with as many females as possible within that time. Females may mate with several dozen males in a single day. The majority of calves are born 8 to 8˝ months later, at the start of the rainy season. The mother licks the newborn right away, to imprint her odour on the calf and within minutes, the calf will be able to stand and nurse. At eight months, young wildebeests will leave their mothers and establish themselves within a group of peers. As many as a half million calves may be born in one season, and this is one reason why the wildebeest has survived over the years while so many other animals have become endangered. Wildebeests can live up to 21 years.