Common Waterbuck


Scientific Name

Kobus ellipsiprymnus

Species Survival Plan



Savannah with trees and shrub thickets in the proximity of perennial water


Spotted hyena, lion, leopard, wild dog and crocodile


Grasses, herbs and foliage

Originally Native To

Savannah regions of Africa, south of the Sahara


48 inches at shoulders


Male - 500 lb.
Female - 410 lb.


Male horns up to 24 inches and curving forward; white ring on rump

Gestation Period

8 - 8.5 months


1 calf

Birth Season

Rainy season


Wild 14 years
Captivity 18 years

Social Behavior

Territorial mates, nursery herds and bachelor herds


About Common Waterbuck

Waterbuck are found along the eastern side of Africa as far north as Ethiopia. They do extend across the southern tip of the continent within a thin range along the border of Namibia and South Africa.

When exposed to a high level of human activity, they will become almost completely nocturnal, only entering grazing areas after sunset. This is a good example of how man not only affects the habitat of animals, but can also alter their normal behavior on a daily basis.

Waterbuck inhabit areas that are close to water in savanna grasslands, gallery forests, and riverine woodlands south of the Sahara. Such habitats not only provide year-round sustenance, but long grasses and watery places in which to hide from predators.

Waterbuck must drink daily and always have a water source within their territory. They are good swimmers that readily wade into water and can, if needed, seek refuge from predators in deeper water.

Mainly grazers, they consume types of coarse grass seldom eaten by other grazing animals and occasionally browse leaves from certain trees and bushes. Generally, they feed in the mornings and at night.

The color of waterbuck varies from grizzled gray to red-brown. They have white hair on ear linings, above the eyes, around the nose and mouth, on the throat, and a white ring on their rump. Only males have the impressive forward-curving horns that are prominently ringed.

Oil glands located in the animal’s skin secrete an oily substance, which is responsible for their musky odor, and has a waterproofing and insect-repelling function. This created the myth that lions and other predators do not hunt and eat this species. They do, but not if there is other prey available.

Males are generally about 25 percent larger than females. Females with a common home range associate casually in small herds of 5-10 animals.

Young males form bachelor herds when their horns emerge at 8-9 months. The position of a bull in the male hierarchy is demonstrated by the amount of waterfront territory he controls.

Bachelor herds often stay near female herds. Some territorial males tolerate adult males on their property, as long as they behave submissively.

These males help repel other male intruders, sneak occasional mating opportunities, and have a good chance of inheriting the territory. Serious fighting is more common with waterbuck than other ungulates and can lead to the death of combatants.

Calves are generally born throughout the year, although breeding becomes more seasonal in some areas, after which a single calf is born. A female will mate again 2-5 weeks after bearing young.

Despite its name, the waterbuck is not truly aquatic nor as much at home in water and swamps as is the Nile lechwe, another Fossil Rim species.

Waterbuck live in the Main Pasture - the third pasture you enter.


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