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

Kobus vardonii

      Puku

Taxonomy

Kobus vardonii [Livingstone, 1857].  
Citation: Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, p. 256.
Type locality: Zambia, Barotseland, Chobe Valley, near Libonta (40deg30'S, 23deg15'E).

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 126-142 cm / 4.2-4.6 ft.
Shoulder Height: 77-83 cm / 31-33 in.
Tail Length: 28-32 cm / 11-13 in.
Weight: 62-90 kg / 136-198 lb.

The coarse coat is a uniform golden brown in colour, with the underparts, including the underside of the tail, being slightly paler.  The forehead area is generally darker than the body, while there are inconspicuous off-white areas around the eyes and lips.  Around the edge of the ears is a fine black rim.  The body is heavy with a level back, and the legs are somewhat shorter than the others in the genus Kobus and without any markings.  The strongly ridged horns are found only in males.  Less lyrate than those of the kob, they grow 45-53 cm / 18-21 inches long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 8 months.
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: After 6 months.
Sexual Maturity: 12-14 months.
Life span: Up to 17 years.

Breeding occurs year-round, with a peak from May to September.

Ecology and Behavior

Feeding activity of the puku is generally limited to the early mornings and late afternoons, although this period may extend long after dark.  The puku is more adaptable in terms of habitat requirements than the kob, and will inhabit areas of open woodland if conditions are suitable.  During the rainy season, populations spread out on higher ground, descending to the margins of watercourses during the dry season.  At this time, smaller groups may join together to form parties of 50 or more animals.  When alarmed, the puku emits a shrill, repeated whistle.  Solitary males hold territories throughout the year, and each attempts to induce a herd of females to remain on his patch of ground for as long as possible.  These territories are spaced out over a considerable distance, and no lekking behavior (as seen in kob) has been recorded.

Family group: Small maternal of 6-20 animals, adult males solitary or in bachelor groups.
Diet: Grasses.
Main Predators: Lion, leopard, hyena, Cape hunting dog.

Distribution

Floodplain grasslands near water in central southern Africa.

Range Map (Redrawn from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

The puku is considered a low risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (1996).

Remarks

Although sometimes classified as a southern subspecies of the kob, the puku is now generally considered a species unto itself.  Puku is an African native name.  Kobus (New Latin) from koba, an African name.  The puku was named in honour of Major Frank Vardon, an English elephant hunter, and a friend of Livingstone when in Africa about the year 1850.

Literature Cited

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

IEA (Institute of Applied Ecology).  1998.  Kobus vardonii.  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 http://gorilla.bio.uniroma1.it/amd/amd342b.html

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

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

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