Alcelaphus buselaphus jacksoni
Head and body: 160-215cm
Weight: 116-185kg female, 125-218kg male
Looks like a creature out of the tales of Narnia. Light brown, up-sloping body, curved horns on hollow bases (pedicels) on both sexes, elongated forehead. Closely related to the wildebeest.
In Uganda, breeding happens almost exclusively in May, at the end of the rainy season. In other areas it may continue throughout the year. Single offspring born after 8-month gestation. Growth rates depend on nutrition. Sexual maturity at 1 year for some, up to 4 years for others
Where to look for them:
This is the only national park in Uganda where you can see the Jackson’s hartebeest (Kidepo). Often mixed with female herds of waterbuck. Most often found in the edge areas (ecotones) between woodlands and savannah.
Meat is apparently very tasty, and the animal is easy to hunt. Also challenged by competition from livestock. Currently not endangered, but one subspecies has become extinct and several others are at low levels
Up to 19 years
Grassland savannah throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, esp. boundaries between open grassy plains and parkland, woodland or scrub). During dry season they are found in drainage lines for access to water, and during the rains they are found in higher, thinly-grassed woodlands (Kingdon, p. 429).
Preference for short-grass areas (Estes, p. 134)
Territories generally include at least 2 plant communities and access to water (but not too close) (Estes, p. 140).
Female herds will have a home range of 3.7-5.5 sq. km., which may overlap 20-30 territories. They will spend from a few hours to a few weeks in a given territory (Estes, p. 139)
Eat almost all grasses and all parts of grasses. One grass that is avoided is Cyndon, which is eaten by many other herbivores. Broad-leaf foliage accounts for less than 5% of diet (Kingdon, p. 429).
Will drink regularly when available, but can go long periods deriving moisture from shrubs, succulents and melons (Walker, p. 180)
Associated with red-oat grass (Themeda triandra) and scrub acacia such as the whistling thorn (Estes, p. 139)
In Uganda, breeding happens almost exclusively in May, at the end of the rainy season. In other areas it may continue throughout the year (Kingdon, p. 430)
Single offspring born after 8-month gestation. Growth rates depend on nutrition. Sexual maturity at 1 year for some, up to 4 years for others (Kingdon, p. 430)
Females are gregarious and move in search of good grass.
Males are territorial, particularly during breeding, and mark territory boundaries with dung and urine. Territories generally consist of all the vegetation zones up a slope, and neighboring territories will add pressure from the sides, not above or below (Kingdon, p. 430)
Occasionally found in large, dense herds. Populations boom and bust depending on drought conditions and competition from livestock (Kingdon, p. 430)
Generally “sedentary-dispersed”, which means they are non-migratory, and do not usually aggregate, although in the past groupings of thousands were recorded (Estes, p. 139)
Female hierarchical herds will roam through the territories of many males. While within a territory, males and females remain distant except when actively courting or mating (mean distance 86m compared to 6m between females) (Estes, p. 139)
Males often stay with mother for up to 2 ½ years, and mature at 3-4 years. They are tolerated by dominant male due to appeasement ceremony (head tucked in, horns parallel to ground) and the protectiveness of the mother, who may leave if the son is forced away (Estes, p. 139)
After leaving natal herd, males will form all-male herds of up to 35, sometimes more around watering holes during dry season. If a male achieves high status in the bachelor herd, he will try to form his own territory around 3-4 years old (Estes, p. 140)
Prime territories are passed on unchanged, and dispossessed bulls usually attempt to regain their territory. Low-value territories are generally not contested and may even remain unoccupied if abandoned (Estes, p. 140)
Males posture with head upright and legs placed back (sometimes while defecating) to indicate readiness to mate, to attract females, and to discourage other males from approaching (Kingdon, p. 430)
“Challenge Ritual” – One male defecates while a second “incisor-grooms” his flank (displacement grooming). (Estes, p. 135)
Have not been extensively studied. In Congo, one herd was observed resting an average of 4 hours, 25 minutes per day spread out over 2-3 resting sessions between 8 a.m. and 4:30 pm. Sleep happened a few minutes at a time, characterized by the chin resting on the ground. Male spends little time laying down, instead advertising his presence by standing on a termite mound (Estes, p.140)
Up to 19 years (Kingdon, p. 430)
Droppings, about 1cm long, often found under acacia trees, as they rest in shade during the heat of the day (Walker, p. 180)
Track 11 – 12 cm long (Walker, p. 180)
Lion, leopard, wild dogs (Walker, p. 180)
Estes, R. (1991). The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press.
Kingdon, J. (1997). The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Walker, C. (1996). Signs of the Wild: A Field Guide to the Spoor & Signs of the Mammals of Southern Africa. (5th Edition). Cape Town, South Africa: Struik Publishers Ltd.
Photo by Charles Steinberg