An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

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

Tragelaphus strepsiceros

      Greater kudu


Tragelaphus strepsiceros [Pallas, 1766].  
Citation: Misc. Zool., p. 9.
Type locality: South Africa, Cape of Good Hope; or Namibia, Gammafluss (= Lowen River).
The taxonomic record (above) is taken from Wilson and Reeder (1993).  Invalid synonyms for Tragelaphus strepsiceros include abyssinicus, bea, burlacei, capensis, chora, cottoni, excelsus, frommi, hamiltoni, koodoo, torticornis, and zambesiensis (Wilsona nd Reeder, 1993).

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

General Characteristics

Body Length: 185-245 cm / 6.1-8.1 ft
Shoulder Height: 100-160 cm / 3.2-5.2 ft
Tail Length: 30-55 cm / 12-22 in
Weight: 120-315 kg / 264-787 lb.

The short, smooth coat varies in general colour from tan-grey to bluish grey in colour.  There are numerous white markings, including 6-10 vertical stripes along the sides, a chevron between the eyes, and cheek spots.  On the neck and shoulders is an erectile crest, while underneath a mane extends along the throat.  The black-tipped, bushy tail is white underneath, and there are black garters on the upper legs.  The ears of the greater kudu are large and round.  The spiralled horns are found only in males and have up to 3 full turns, diverging slightly as they slant back from the head. They can grow 100-140 cm / 40-56 inches long.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 7-9 months
Young per Birth: 1
Weaning: After 6 months
Sexual Maturity: Females at 15-21 months, males at 21-24 months
Life span: Up to 23 years

Females separate themselves from the herd just before giving birth, leaving the calf lying in concealment.  After the calf has matured slightly, the mother will return with her baby to the herd.  The majority of births occur from January to March, the wet season.

Ecology and Behavior

Greater kudu may be active throughout the 24-hour day.  The large ears are extremely sensitive to noise, making these shy antelope difficult to approach.  Under normal circumstance, kudu will sneak away and hide from potential enemies.  When startled, however, they flee with large jumps with their tails rolled upwards and forwards.  Kudu often stop and look back after a running for a short distance - a frequently fatal habit.  Despite their large size, kudu are accomplished jumpers, with records of heights of over 2.5 meters / 8.25 feet being cleared with ease.  Herds disperse during the rainy season when food is plentiful, while as the dry season reaches its peak, there becomes a high concentration in favourable areas.  Greater kudu are not territorial, although they do have 'home' areas.  Maternal herds have home ranges of approximately 4 square kilometers which overlap with those of other groups.  Home ranges of adult males are about 11 square kilometers, and generally encompass the ranges of two or three female groups.  Population densities vary from 1.9-3.2 animals per square kilometer.  The spiral horns are so well developed for wrestling that they can sometimes become so severely interlocked that the two animals fighting cannot release each other, and thus both die.  Greater kudu have a wide repertoire of vocalizations, including barks, grunts, hooting bleats, and a strangulated whimper.

Family group: Small single sex groups up to 10, though congregations of 20-30 individuals have been recorded.
Diet: Leaves and grasses
Main Predators: Lion, Cape hunting dog, leopard.


Woodlands, scrub, and open forests up to 2,450 m / 8,000 ft in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Countries: Angola, Botswana, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe (IUCN, 2002). 

Range Map (Redrawn from IAE, 1998)

Conservation Status

The greater kudu is considered a low risk, conservation dependent species by the IUCN (2002), and is not listed by CITES.


Kudu, or koodoo, is the Hottentot name for this antelope.  Tragos (Greek) a he-goat;.elaphos (Greek) a deer, in combination referring to an antelope.  Strepho (Greek) I twist, so strephis, a twisting; keras (Greek) the horn of an animal.

Grand koudou (Walther, 1990)
Großer Kudu(Walther, 1990)

Literature Cited

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

Boitani, L., and S. Bartoli.  1982.  Simon & Schuster's Guide to Mammals.  New York: Fireside/Simon & Schuster, Inc.  Entry 379.

Cronje, H. P., B. K. Reilly, and I. D. Macfadyen.  2002.  Natural mortality among four common ungulate species on Letaba Ranch, Limpopo Province, South Africa.  Koedoe 45(1): 79-86.

Dorgeloh, W. G.  2001.  Relationship between distribution of kudu and woody plant structure.  South African Journal of Wildlife Research 31(3-4): 85-91.

Katsy, G. D., M. Y. Treus, and V. N. Zubko.  1987.  Dermal structure in antelopes in Ascania-Nove Reseve, USSR.  Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 66(8): 1239-1245.

Nersting, L. G., and P. Arctander.  2001.  Phylogeography and conservation of impala and greater kudu.  Molecular Ecology 10(3): 711-719.

Owen-Smith, N.  1984b. Demography of greater kudu, Tragelaphus strepsiceros in relation to rainfall. Acta Zoologica Fennica 172: 197-199.

Owen-Smith, N.  1993.  Age, size, dominance and reproduction among male kudus: Mating enhancement by attrition of rivals.  Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 32(3): 177-184.

Owen-Smith, N.  1993.  Comparative mortality rates of male and female kudus: The costs of sexual size dimorphism.  Journal of Animal Ecology 62(3): 428-440

Perrin, M. R.  1999.  The social organisation of the greater kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros (Pallas 1766).  Tropical Zoology 12(2): 169-208.

Perrin, M. R., and T. S. Allen-Rowlandson.  1992.  Aspects of the spatial and social organization of the greater kudu, Tragelaphus strepsiceros.  Ongules/Ungulates 91: 249-253.

Perrin, M. R., and T. S. Allen-Rowlandson.  1993. Spatial organisation of the greater kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros (Mammalia, Ungulata). Rev. Zool. Africaine 107(6): 561-570.

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