window spacer


The hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus, Kongoni) is a strange-looking animal resembling the wildebeest. Tipping the scales at 300 to 400 pounds (136-180 kg), they are big antelopes. About four feet (1.2 m) at the shoulder, they have a long face and a steeply sloping back. The small lyre-shaped horns grow in a unique manner as they grow from a single common base, or pedicle, on top of the skull. The male's horns are generally larger, otherwise the sexes are similar in appearance. Its attractive coat is dark fawn, fading toward a whitish rump.

The hartebeest favors open, grassy savannas but will venture into dry bush. Often in herds, it is seen with other antelopes and zebras. Hartebeests are not fussy eaters, although they avoid certain grasses that are consumed by other grazers.

These antelope are not especially wary and roam together in small herds, which allows them to look out for predators, mainly lion and leopard, although other carnivores will take the young.

Gestation lasts eight months and lifespan is usually ten to fifteen years. Hartebeests run extremely fast when frightened and can outpace a good horse. Hartebeests are still common but at one time they exceeded even the wildebeest in numbers.

There are eight recognized subspecies that vary in color and the shape of the horns. Coke's hartebeest (A. b. cokii, Kongoni) is common in Kenya and particularly large numbers occur in some protected conservation areas. The Lelwel Hartebeest (A. b. lelwel) occupies northwestern Kenya and the most widespread is Lichtenstein's hartebeest (A. b. Lichtenstein), ranging through the southern Congo to Zambia and Tanzania down to Mozambique. Hunter's hartebeest (Damaliscus hunteri) is more distantly related to the other hartebeests. This type is thought to be a relic species (unchanged by evolution) and is probably similar to the progenitor of the hartebeest family. It differs in its coloration with a reddish coat. It is considerably rarer than the other species, numbering only 30,000 to 40,000.

In protected areas, hartebeests are relatively common but one subspecies went extinct in 1925 due to over-hunting. Two other subspecies are presently considered at risk of extinction. They are easy prey for hunters, and their meat is highly sought after.


Top of page

back to the hartebeest photo

Click for the hartebeest photo

Back to African animals

© Jungle Photos 2000-2014

window spacer