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Male Waterbuck
Male Waterbuck
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Photographer: Per-Gunnar Ostby of www.pgoimages.com

Female Waterbuck
Female Waterbuck

Waterbuck Range Map (West, Central & East Africa) Waterbuck Range Map
(West, Central & East Africa)

Latin Name Kobus ellipsiprymnus
Conservation Status Conservation Dependent
Location West, Central & East Africa
Colour Grey or Brown
Length 1.3 - 2.4 m (4.25 - 7.75 ft)
Tail 10 - 45 cms (4 - 18 inches)
Weight 160 - 300 Kgs (352 - 660 lbs)
Life Expectancy Up to 18 Yrs (in captivity)

Main Characteristics

Waterbuck are large and robust antelope. They have a body length between 1.3 and 2.4 m (4.25 - 7.75 ft), a tail length between 10 and 45 cms (4 - 18 inches) and they weigh between 160 and 300 kgs (352 - 660 lbs).

Their coat is long, course and oily and it ranges from grey to reddish/brown in colour but it darkens as they get older. They have large ears and white markings on their rump, throat, muzzle and above their eyes.

Only male Waterbuck have horns and these can measure up to 1m (3.25 ft) in length. Their horns have prominent rings and they are widely spaced with an upwards and backward curve.

Waterbuck tend to be active during the day but their activity is dependent on their proximity to water, the number of predators in the area, grazing conditions, habitat and seasonal differences.


Waterbuck are found in the scrub and savanna of west, central and east Africa. They inhabit areas close to water and where grass is plentiful.

Female Waterbuck are either solitary or form loose groups consisting of 5 - 10 individuals. There is no hierarchy within these groups.

Young males form bachelor groups that consist of 5 - 10 individuals. Within these groups their is a hierarchy based on visual displays, horn length and fights, and they stay in these groups until they become fully mature.

Older breeding males that are between 6 and 10 years old occupy their own territory. The size of their territory depends on the population, quality of the habitat, fitness and age of the waterbuck.


Waterbuck feed upon grasses, leaves, and herbs. Approximately 90% of their diet is made up of a variety of grasses.


A few days before giving birth, mothers isolate themselves in thick brush and after a gestation period between 8 and 9 months, one calf is born. At birth the calf weighs approximately 9 kgs (19.8 lbs) and within 30 minutes of birth they are able to stand. The calf stays hidden from predators for 2 - 4 weeks.

They begin to eat grass after a few week but they aren't weaned until they reach 6 - 8 months old. Young males leave their mothers group when they become independent but females remain in the maternal group. Females reach sexual maturity at approximately 3 years of age and males 6 years of age.


The main predators of Waterbuck are lions, leopards, hyenas, african wild dogs, cheetahs, crocodiles and humans. When they feel threatened they run to the nearest water source where they quickly swim away or submerge with only their nose being above the surface.


There are two subspecies of Waterbuck:

Defassa Waterbuck
(Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa)

Common Waterbuck
(Kobus ellipsiprymnus ellipsiprymnus)

Interesting Facts

Predators don't usually choose older Waterbuck to hunt as their meat has an unpleasant odour due to the waterproofing secretions of their sweat glands.

Similar Animals

Upemba Lechwe
Nile Lechwe


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