An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Bovinae
            Genus: Tragelaphus

Tragelaphus eurycerus



Tragelaphus eurycerus [Ogilby, 1837].  
Citation: Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1836:120 [1837].
Type locality: West Africa.
The taxonomic record (above) is taken from Wilson and Reeder (1993).  The bongo belongs is the only member of the subgenus Boocercus, which is sometimes used as a full genus (Nowak, 1991).  T. euryceros is a later, no invalid, spelling of T. eurycerus (Wilson and Reeder, 1993).  Synonyms for T. eurycerus include albovirgatus, cooperi, isaaci, and katanganus (Wilson and Reeder, 1993).

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 170-250 cm / 5.6-8.3 ft.
Shoulder Height: 110-130 cm / 3.6-4.3 ft.
Tail Length: 45-65 cm / 18-26 in.
Weight: 240-400 kg / 525-880 lb.

The short, glossy coat is rich red-chestnut in colour, growing darker in older males, and has 10-15 vertical white torso stripes. The muzzle is black, topped by a white chevron between the eyes, and flanked by two white cheek spots. The ears are large, edged with white on the inside. There is a black and white dorsal crest. The legs are patterned boldly with chestnut, black, and white. The yellow-tipped, lyre-shaped horns are found in both sexes, and have 1 turn. They grow 75-100 cm / 30-40 inches long, and are usually thinner, longer, and more parallel in the females.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 9 months.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: About 6 months.
Sexual Maturity: At about 20 months.
Life span: Up to 19 years.

Calves are left alone after birth, lying still in the undergrowth to avoid detection by predators.  The mother returns to her calf to nurse throughout this period.

Ecology and Behavior

Bongos are extremely shy, and, when startled, disappear very quickly into the surrounding forest.  When fleeing, the horns are held against the back of the neck, as not to tangle in the surrounding vegetation.  This behavior is exhibited frequently, and most old animals have bare patches on their backs where the horns rest.  Bongos wallow frequently in mud, afterwards rubbing the mud against a tree, polishing their horns.  Bongos are most active between dusk and early morning.  The population density in southern Sudan was found to be about 1.2 animals per square kilometer.  Bongos have a wide range of vocalizations, including grunts, snorts, a weak mooing contact call, and a bleat-like alarm call.

Family group: Singly, in pairs, or in small groups of 9 or less females and their young.
Diet: Leaves, shoots, and grasses.
Main Predators: Leopard.


Dense tropical jungles with dense undergrowth up to an altitude of 4,000 m / 12,800 ft in central Africa, with isolated populations in Kenya, and western Africa.

Countries: Angola, Benin [Regionally extinct?], Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana. Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Togo [Regionally extinct ?], Uganda [Regionally extinct] (IUCN, 2002).  

Range Map (Redrawn from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

The bongo is classified as low risk, near-threatened by the IUCN (2002).  The population of T. eurycerus in Ghana is on CITES Appendix III (CITES, 2003).


Because it is the only spiral-horned antelope (tragelaphid) in which both sexes have horns, the classification of the bongo has been quite difficult.  Since its description it has been placed with the elands under the genus Taurotragus, and has had its own genus Boocercus.  However, most mammalogist currently support the bongo's position in the genus Tragelaphus.

Bongo is an African native name.  Tragos (Greek) a he-goat;.elaphos (Greek) a deer; in combination referring to an antelope.  Eurus (Greek) broad, widespread;  keras (Greek) the horn of an animal.

Bongo (Walther, 1990)
Bongo (Walther, 1990)

Literature Cited

IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology) 1998.  Tragelaphus eurycerus.  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

IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).  2002.  2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 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.  Spiral-horned antelopes.  In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals.  Edited by S. P. Parker.  New York: McGraw-Hill.  Volume 5, pp. 344-359.

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

Additional Resources

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

Hillman, J.C.  1986.  Aspects of the biology of the bongo antelope, Tragelaphus eurycerus Ogilby, 1837, in southwest Sudan. Biological Conservation 38: 255-272.

Klaus, H. C., G. Klaus, and B. Schmid.  2000.  Movement patterns and home range of the bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) in the rain forest of the Dzanga National Park, Central African Republic.  African Journal of Ecology 38(1): 53-61.

Ralls, K. 1978. Tragelaphus eurycerus. Mammalian Species 111: 1-4.

Turkalo, A. and H. C. Klaus.  1999.  Group size and group composition of the Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) at a natural lick in the Dzanga National Park, Central African Republic.  Mammalia 63(4): 437-448.

Return to Artiodactyla

© Brent Huffman,
All rights reserved.
Questions or comments? Click here