Kobus vardoniipuku

Geographic Range

Kobus vardonii, commonly refered to as puku, are primarily found south of the Equator between 0 and 20 degrees and between 20 and 40 degrees east of the Prime Meridian. Recent research described puku as being found in Angola, Botswana, Katanga, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia. Populations were estimated at 54,600 Puku within Tanzania and 21,000 in Zambia. Nearly two-thirds live in the Kilombero Valley of Tanzania. Other countries in which they exist have much smaller populations. In Botswana there are less than 100 remaining, and their numbers are falling. Due to dimishing habitat, many puku have been relocated into national parks; nearly one-third of their population is now located in protected areas. (East, 1998; Goldspink, et al., 1998; Jenkins, et al., 2003)


Puku are found in grasslands, savannas, and river floodplains. Seasonal changes in temperature and precipitation influence mating and movements of pukus. For example, in wet seasons populations tend to move to higher elevations due to flooding. During dry seasons they remain near watercourses. (Corti, et al., 2002a)

  • Range elevation
    900 to 1550 m
    2952.76 to 5085.30 ft
  • Average elevation
    1000 m
    3280.84 ft

Physical Description

Puku are a medium-sized antelopes. Their fur is approximately 32 mm in length, with varying colors. The majority of their fur is golden yellow, the forehead is browner in color than elsewhere on the body and they have white fur near the eyes and under the belly, neck, and upper lip. Their tails have long hairs towards the tip and lack of bushiness. This distinguishes K. vardonii from other, similar antelope species. (Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)

Puku are sexually dimorphic. Males have horns and the females do not. The horns are lyre-shaped and strongly ridged for two-thirds of their length and smooth towards the tips. Females are also significantly smaller in mass, weighing an average of 66 kg, while males weigh an average of 77 kg. Puku have small face glands. Territorial males have significantly larger neck girths on average than bachelor males. Territorial and bachelor males can be identified by glandular secretions on the neck. Territorial males excrete more hormones from their neck than bachelor males. Territorial males use their glandular secretions to spread their scent over their territory. This scent warns other males that they are intruding on anothers territory. Neck patches do not appear in territorial males until they have already established their territories. Neck patches only appear between the months of May and November. Puku also have well-developed inguinal pouches that are 40 to 80mm deep. (Macdonald, 2006; Rosser, 2008; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)

  • Range mass
    60 to 92 kg
    132.16 to 202.64 lb
  • Average mass
    75 kg
    165.20 lb
  • Range length
    126 to 142 cm
    49.61 to 55.91 in


Puku breed year round but are more sexually active after the first heavy rains of the wet season. Territorial males are polygynous and herd females into their territories. But there is evidence that females choose their mates. Occasionally bachelor males are tolerated as long as they do not show any sexual interest in the females. (Kingdon, 1979; Rosser, 1989)

The reproductive season is closely matched to seasonal variation, however puku can breed year-round. Most mating occurs between the months of May and September to ensure that offspring are born during the wet season. The amount of rainfall during this season varies between years; most calves are born from January to April, since forage is most abundant at this time. The typical number of offspring per female per breeding season is one. Offspring are difficult to locate because they are "hiders," meaning that females leave them on their own in a hidden place rather than travel with them. The wet season provides high quality forage for females to support their lactation and heavy vegetation helps provide cover for hidden calves. (Rosser, 1989; Rosser, 2008)

Puku gestation lasts 8 months and they generally give birth to a single offspring. Puku wean after 6 months and reach sexual maturity at 12 to 14 months. Older calves come out of hiding and join the herd. (Rosser, 1989; Rosser, 2008; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)

  • Breeding interval
    Puku generally breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Mating can occur year-round, but peaks from May to September.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 1
  • Average gestation period
    8 months
  • Average weaning age
    6 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    12 to 14 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    12 to 14 months

Females do not have a strong bond with their young. They rarely defend their young or address the high-pitched bleating a calf may produce when calling for help. Calves wean at approximately 6 months. (Rosser, 1989)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female


Kobus varondii individuals have been estimated to live up to 17 years in the wild. (Alden, et al., 1995)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    17 (high) years


Territorial males are found on their own. Bachelor males are found in male-only herds. Females tend to found in groups of 6 to 20. Female herds are unstable because members constantly change groups. Groups travel, eat and sleep together. Territorial males maintain their territories throughout the year. In order to protect their territoy, these solitary males emit 3 to 4 whistles to warn other males to keep away. This whistle is also used as a way to advertise to females. Puku feed early in the morning and again late in the afternoon (Alden, et al., 1995; Corti, et al., 2002a; Corti, et al., 2002b; Rodgers, 2008; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)

Home Range

Territory size depends on the number of territorial males in the area and the availability of suitable habitat resources. (Belbin, et al., 1992)

Communication and Perception

Puku communicate primarily by whistling. Regardless of sex or age, they whistle to alarm others of incoming predators. Young puku whistle to gain the attention of their mother. (Rosser, 2008; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)

Territorial males rub their horns on the grass to saturate the grass with their neck secretions. These secretions warn rival males that they are in another male's territory. If a bachelor male is on a territorial male's area, then the bachelor male is chased away. If it is another territorial male, then the owner of the property uses visual communication by rapidly wagging its tale in an attempt to scare the other male away. If the opposing male does not flee, a fight ensues. Males fight with their horns. Horn clashing occurs between two males in a battle for territory. The winner gets to keep the territory. Significantly more face-offs occur between two territorial males than between territorial males and bachelor males. Chases usually occur between territorial and bachelor males. These chases occur even if the bachelor male does not show any aggressive behavior towards the territorial male. (Rosser, 2008; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)

Food Habits

Puku prefer plants containing high crude protein value. They eat a wide variety of perennial grasses which varies by season. Eragrostis rigidior is the primary grass eaten because is has a high amount of crude protein. After the grass has matured, the amount of crude protein is reduced and puku resort to other plants for protein. During March, 92% of their diet is from Brachiaria latifolia, but this is to make up for the lack of E. rigidior.Brachiaria latifolia has roughly 5% crude protein. Puku eat more Digitaria setivalva than other antelopes, this grass species has high protein content but low crude fiber. (Osterberg and Vonrichter, 1977; Skinner and Chimimba, 2005)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves


If threatened, puku emit a repeated whistle which is used to warn others. Aside from natural predation from leopards and lions, puku are also in danger of humans. Humans cause unsustainable hunting and habitat loss. Grasslands that puku prefer are increasingly invaded by livestock and human settlement each year. (Alden, et al., 1995; Hes and Mills, 1997; Jenkins, et al., 2003)

Ecosystem Roles

Puku are part of a grazing fauna that is important in structuring grassland communities and supporting populations of large predators, such as lions and leopards, and scavengers, such as vultures and hyaenas. (East, 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Puku are considered a game animal. They are killed for food and hides. They can also be a tourist attraction. (Jenkins, et al., 2003)

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

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no recognized negative impacts on humans from puku.

Conservation Status

Puku are currently listed as near threatened because populations are considered stable and are not under immediate threat. Their survival depends on several fragmented populations. Puku have to compete with cattle for forage and populations suffer when habitats are modified for agriculture and grazing. (Jenkins, et al., 2003)


Catlin Francis (author), Radford University, Zack Neitzey (author), Radford University, Joel Hagen (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

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


active at dawn and dusk

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


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.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

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.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Alden, P., D. Estes, B. McBride, D. Schlitter. 1995. National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife. New York: Chantichleer Press.

Belbin, S., A. Jarvis, R. Nefdt, A. Robertson, S. Thirgood. 1992. Mating system and ecology of black lechwe (Kobus: Bovidae) in Zambia. Journal of Zoology. Journal of Zoology, 228: 155-172.

Corti, G., E. Fanning, S. Gordon, R. Jenkins. 2002. Observations on the puku antelope (Kobus vardoni Livingstone, 1857) in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology, 40: 197-200.

Corti, G., E. Fanning, R. Jenkins, K. Roettcher. 2002. Management implications of antelope habitat use in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania. Society for Environmental Exploration. Oryx, 36: 161-169.

East, R. 1998. "African Antelope Database" (On-line pdf). Accessed March 21, 2012 at http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/ssc-op-021.pdf.

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Hes, L., M. Mills. 1997. Complete Book of Southern African Mammals. Cape Town: New Holland Publishing.

Jenkins, R., H. Maliti, G. Corti. 2003. Conservation of the puku antelope in the Kilombero Valley, Tanzania. Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, 12: 787-797.

Kingdon, J. 1979. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. United States of America: University of Chicago Press.

Macdonald, D. 2006. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Mammals. London, U.K.: The Brown Reference Group.

Osterberg, R., W. Vonrichter. 1977. The nutritive values of some major food plants of lechwe, puku and waterbuck along the Chobe River, Botswana. African Journal of Ecology, 15: 91-97.

Rodgers, W. 2008. Status of puku (Kobus vardoni Livingstone) in Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology, 22: 117-125.

Rosser, A. 2008. A glandular neckpatch secretion and vocalizations act as signals of territorial status in male puku (Kobus vardoni). Afrian Journal of Ecology, 28: 314-321.

Rosser, A. 1989. Environmental and reproductive seasonality of puku, Kobus vardoni, in Luangwa Valley, Zambia. African Journal of Ecology, 27: 77-88.

Skinner, J., C. Chimimba. 2005. The Mammals Of The Southern African Subregion. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.