Black Wildebeest or White-tailed gnu (Connochaetes gnou)


Black Wildebeest have a dark brown to black body, an erect mane and a long whitish tail. Both sexes have heavy, forward curving horns. Bulls measure 1.2 metres at the shoulder and weigh 161 Kg. Cows measure 1.16 metres at the shoulder and weigh 130 Kg. The horns of calves are initially straight, and start to grow the characteristic curvature at approximately nine months of age.


They are primarily a grazer, in order of preference selecting for predominantly grass, and occasionally karroid shrubs and herbs.


Socially, the Black Wildebeest is found in three types of herds namely those consisting of territorial bulls competing to attract receptive cows, female herds, and lastly bachelor herds. Dominant bulls are spaced across a grid of individual territories, each of which is actively defended. Generally older bulls are isolated from the social structure. This species shows strong attachment to particular areas, which are selected for all round visibility to enhance safety.


Their preferred habitat is open grassveld, and it actively avoids areas with tall grass and dense vegetation.

Where they are found

Black Wildebeest  are endemic to South Africa. Historically the Black Wildebeest occupied the central open grassland plains of the country, from the Northern Cape, the Free State, the southern highveld regions of the former Transvaal, western Lesotho, western Swaziland and the grassland areas below the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal. Recently introduced to other parts of the country and neighbouring countries. With population estimates of about 12 00 it is not regarded as threatened by extinction.

Field Notes

Wiped out from most of its natural range through farming practises the Black Wildebeest only survives on game farms and private land, having been specifically bred. They have also been trans-located as far afield as Kenya. Although great numbers were once found on the central plains of South Africa in the past they never migrated en masse as the Blue Wildebeest still does in places.


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