Kobus ellipsiprymnuswaterbuck

Geographic Range

There are two main groups of waterbuck. The ellipsiprymnus group is found throughout southeast Africa. The defassa group is found in northeastern, central, and western Africa (Kingdon, 1982).


Waterbuck prefer grassland habitat that is close to water. The best habitats are by draining lines and in valleys. While they prefer dry ground, they remain close to water for food and as an escape from predators (Estes, 1991).

Physical Description

Waterbuck have long bodies and necks and short legs. The hair is coarse, and they have a mane on their necks (Estes, 1991). Their head and body length ranges from 177 - 235 cm and shoulder height from 120 - 136 cm. Only male waterbuck have horns, which are curved forward and vary in length from 55 - 99 cm. The length of the horns is determined by the age of the waterbuck (Kingdon, 1982). Body color ranges from gray to red-brown and darkens with age. The lower part of the legs is black with white rings above the hooves (Estes, 1991).

  • Range mass
    160 to 300 kg
    352.42 to 660.79 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    148.949 W


Male waterbuck mature at six years of age, and females reach maturity in three years. Breeding near the equator is perennial. The generations in these populations are spaced about ten months apart. In northern Africa, the waterbuck calve annually. The gestation period is about eight to eight and a half months. A few days before calving, mothers isolate themselves in thickets. After birth, it takes newborns about half an hour to gain their feet. The young calves remain hidden for two to four weeks (Estes, 1991).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    9.07 to 9.57 months
  • Range weaning age
    6 to 7 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    771 days



Waterbuck live in wide, separated ranges that are shared by many females and territorial and nonterritorial males. The size of a waterbuck's home range depends on the quality of the habitat, population, and the age and fitness of the waterbuck. Waterbuck that are in good health and are younger have the largest ranges. The home ranges of females may overlap, resulting in small herds that average 5 - 10 animals. Within these herds, there is no established rank order. Females, hovever, are most commonly found alone or in pairs, and it is believed that herds of waterbuck are random meetings of individual waterbucks. Horns begin to form on males at 8 - 9 months, which marks their separation from the females. These young males then form bachelor herds and remain in these until they mature. The bachelor herds are composed of anywhere from 5 - 10 waterbuck. These are closed groups and the hierarchy is based on seniority. Upon maturation, the bulls become territorial. The activity of the waterbuck is affected by seasonal differences, habitat, grazing conditions, distance from water, and the number of predators in the area. When there is less water available and the conditions are dry, waterbuck need to rest more. While they have been found active at night, the waterbuck is more likely to be active in the daytime (Estes, 1991).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Waterbuck are very water dependent. They eat a variety of grasses, both medium and short in length. Their diet is very rich in protein. When the amount of available grass is low, waterbuck eat other herbs to satisfy their needs (Estes, 1991).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Waterbuck are hunted for sport in Africa and are found in zoos throughout the world (Kingdon, 1982).

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Conservation Status


Other Comments

The number of predators greatly affects the population of waterbuck. The main predators - lions, hyaenas, and leopards - usually attack newborn calves (Kingdon, 1982).


Toni Lynn Newell (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Estes, R. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. The University of California Press. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London.

Kingdon, J. 1982. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa; Volume III Part C (Bovids). Academic Press. London, New York, and San Francisco.