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Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Reduncinae
            Genus: Kobus

Kobus ellipsiprymnus



Kobus ellipsiprymnus [Ogilby, 1833].  
Citation: Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1833:47.
Type locality: South Africa, between Lataku (near Kuruman) and W coast of Africa, N of Orange River, on  Molopo River.

Click on the pictures above for a larger view of the photographs

General Characteristics

Body Length: 180-220 cm / 6-7.3 ft.
Shoulder Height: 100-130 cm / 3.3-4.3 ft.
Tail Length: 22-45 cm / 8.8-18 in.
Weight: 150-250 kg / 330-550 lb.

The shaggy, coarse coat is reddish brown to grizzled grey in colour, darkening with age.  Facial markings are composed of a white muzzle, lighter eyebrows and insides of the ears, while there is a cream-coloured 'bib' on the throat.  The most conspicuous feature of this antelope is a large white 'halo' or hollow ring which surrounds the base of the tail on the rump (in certain subspecies, most notably the Defassa waterbuck K. e. defassa, the area within the circle is covered with white hair, creating a rump patch.  The body is heavyset, and the strong legs are black in colour.  The heavily ridged horns are found only in males and sweep in an arc backwards and upwards, with the tips pointing forwards.  They grow 55-100 cm / 1.6-3.3 feet long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 8.5-9 months.
Young per Birth: 1, rarely 2.
Weaning: After 6-7 months.
Sexual Maturity: Females at 12-14 months, males at 14-18 months.
Life span: Up to 18 years.

Most births occur during the wetter seasons (August and November) After birth, the young lie concealed and away from their mothers for at least 2 weeks.  After joining the herd, the young follow their mother, who raises her tail as a "follow me" signal, emphasized by the white rump ring.

Ecology and Behavior

As it name would suggest, the waterbuck is a good swimmer and flees into water if pursued, although it is reported that they do not actually like going into water.  At 7-9 months, males are driven from their maternal family and join up with a bachelor herd.  These groups have a distinct social hierarchy based on size and strength, and contests are frequent.  Around 6-7 years, males become territorial, staking out areas of 150-625 acres and defending them against mature rivals with posturing and fights.  These territories are maintained throughout the year, and a male is generally overthrown before he reaches 10 years of age.  Only about 5-10 % of mature males are territorial at the same time.  Female groups wander over a home range of 200-600 hectares, which may be kept for up to 8 years and encompasses several male territories.  Population densities in Uganda vary from 0.15-17.8 animals per square kilometer

Family group: Male, female, and mixed groups of up to 30 animals.
Diet: Grasses, reeds, leaves.
Main Predators: Lion, leopard, hyena, Cape hunting dog.


Scrub, savanna, and woodlands near water in sub-Saharan west Africa and most of central and eastern Africa.

Range Map (Redrawn from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

The waterbuck is classified as a low risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (1996).  Both the Defassa waterbuck, K. e. defassa, and the common or ellipsen waterbuck, K. e. ellipsiprymnus, fall under this classifiaction as well.


Despite the name waterbuck, this species is less dependent on water than the other members in its genus.  Kobus (New Latin) from koba, an African name.  Ellipes (Greek) wanting, defective: an ellipse is a shape deviating from a circle;  prumnos (Greek) the hind part: ellipsiprymnus refers to the white ring on the rump.

Literature Cited

IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology).  1998.  Kobus ellipsiprymnus.  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

Kingdon, J.  1997.  The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals.  Academic Press, London and New York: NaturalWorld.

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

Walther, F. R. 1990.  Reedbucks, waterbucks,.and impalas.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5,  pp. 448-461.

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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