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Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Alcelaphinae
            Genus: Alcelaphus

Alcelaphus lichtensteinii

      Lichtenstein's hartebeest


Alcelaphus lichtensteinii [Peters, 1849].  
Citation: Spenerschen Zeitung, 23 December, 1849, p. unknown; reprinted in 1912 in Gesellschaft Natuurforschender Freunde zu Berlin for 1839-59.
Type locality: Mozambique, Tette.

General Characteristics

Body Length: 160-200 cm / 5.3-6.7 ft.
Shoulder Height: 120-135 cm / 4-4.5 ft.
Tail Length: 40-50 cm / 16-20 in.
Weight: 125-200 kg / 275-440 lb.

The overall colour is a sandy yellow, with no appreciable lightening on the undersides. On the back is a faint reddish 'saddle' which is fairly indistinct with the exception of where it meets the white rump in a crisp horizontal line.  The brush-like tuft of hair at the base of the tail is black, as are the fronts of the lower forelegs.  The shoulders are humped, and the body slopes downward towards the rear.  As in all hartebeests, the head is extremely elongated and slender.  The tip of the muzzle is dar brown or black in colour, and lighter 'eyebrows' make an indistinct chevron in the middle of the forehead.  The broad and short forehead pedicel bears horns in both sexes.  Growing up and slightly out before turning towards each other, the tips of the horns turn sharply towards the rear, such that the horns form an open-ended "O" from the front.  Slightly ridged, the horns grow 40-60 cm / 16-24 inches long in both sexes.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 240 days.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: By about 12 months.
Sexual Maturity: Presumably around 24 months.
Life span: Potentially 20 years.

Breeding is generally confined between December and February, with most calves being born during the July-September dry season. 

Ecology and Behavior

Like many antelope, Lichtenstein's hartebeest forages primarily in the early morning and late afternoon and evening, seeking refuge from the daytime heat by resting in shade.  A herd is generally led by an adult male, who often takes up watch on a termite mound, or other patch of elevated ground, and who will bring up the rear of the herd when in flight.  This male defends a territory of about 2.5 square kilometers year-round, which is marked by 'horning' the ground.  This horning behaviour is exhibit in both sexes, after which the animal may rub its horns on its sides, leaving dark patches of dirt just behind the shoulders.  During the rut, a male with a territory will try to 'collect' as many females as possible (whether from his herd or not).  At this time, fights between rival males are common, and can last for extended periods of time.  The sense of sight is well developed, and is this antelopes main defense in the open territory which it frequents.  The sense of smell is not especially keen.  The primary vocalizations are a bellow and an odd sneeze-like snort.

Family group: Groups of 3-15 females and young led by an adult male, bachelor males in small groups or solitary.
Diet: Grasses, sometimes leaves.
Main Predators: Lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, Cape hunting dog.


Savanna mixed with open woodland and floodplains in south central Africa.

Range Map (Redrawn from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

Lichtenstein's hartebeest is classified as a low risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (1996).


Lichtenstein's hartebeest was previously considered as a subspecies of the common hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), but has been "upgraded" to a species in its own right.  Some confusion still exists among taxonomists as to whether it should remain in the genus Alcelaphus or be moved to its own.  Alke (Greek) the elk; elaphos (Greek) a deer.  M. H. C. Lichtenstein (1780-1857) was the Director of Zoology at the Berlin Museum in 1815.

Literature Cited

Cillie, B.  1987.  Mammals of Southern Africa.  South Africa: Frandsen Publishers.

IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology).  1998.  Sigmoceros lichtensteinii.  In African Mammals Databank - A Databank for the Conservation and Management of the African Mammals Vol 1 and 2. Bruxelles: European Commission Directorate. Available online at

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991.  Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition).  Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at

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