Red Hartebeest - Alcelaphus buselaphus

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Afrikaans Rooihartbees Zulu Nduluzele 
Tswana Kgama Shona Ngama
Photo Kobus Hugo
R.W. Min
23" Max 29"
S.C.I Min 62" Max 80" Measurement Method 1


Distribution Dung
1.5 cm
Tapered one end and blunt the other
Deposited in middens
Visible Male/Female Differences

Males are taller than females, are more richly coloured, more distinctly marked and have much thicker horns.

Habitat and Distribution

Semi-arid bush savanna and open woodland. Independent of water but will drink if it is available. Very widely translocated.


A selective grazer and browser. Selects specific species of plant and prefers leaves. When no water is available they eat melons and dig for tubers for moisture.


Gestation is8 months. Calves begin grazing at 2 weeks and are weaned at 7-8 months. Cows first calve at three years and breed annually. Lifespan 15-16 years. A newborn calf lies hidden in tall grass while its mother grazes; she returns at intervals to clean and suckle it. Females leave the herd to give birth.

Behavior and Habits

Highly adapted to hot and dry conditions, they are most active in the early morning and late afternoon and rest in shade in the summer and in the open during winter. They will cover long distances to where rain has fallen. Their metabolic rate is low and blood going to the brain is cooled by a unique heat exchange system with blood coming from the nasal membranes.

Small herds of up to 20 are formed. Mature bulls defend territories of 100-400 ha throughout the year and control harem herds of females and juveniles of both sexes. Non-territorial males form bachelor herds in unfavourable habitat but some adult males are solitary. Territories are defended by with and horn wrestling and both the antagonists go down onto their knees for better leverage. Fighters' horns may jam together and skulls with interlocking horns are sometimes found. Territories are marked with a gland from in front of the eyes and also by thrashing vegetation with the horns. They defecate and urinate in middens.

Red Hartebeest is one of Southern Africa's fastest antelope and can reach speeds of 70 km/h. Calves that cannot keep up with a fleeing herd drop flat on the ground in an attempt to avoid detection. .  Often hunted by the larger carnivores but its open habitat and speed make it difficult prey.

Dung and Field sign

Damaged vegetation from territorial bulls' horn thrashing. Dung middens. Horned up soil. Dung pellets are 1,5 cm long, tapered at one end and blunt at the other.


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