Conservation Education and Science
Animal Facts & Photos  
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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa
ORDER: Artiodactyla
FAMILY: Bovidae
RANGE: central Africa west to Rift Valley
HABITAT: grasslands near water
DIET: grasses, reeds, rushes and aquatic vegetation
ENEMIES: large cats, hyenas

The waterbuck is a large, robust animal with a long body and neck, stocky legs and large rounded ears. White patches appear above the eyes, on the throat and around the legs, nose and rump patch, which is called the elliptical ring. Diffuse sebaceous follicles emit a musky smell and make the shaggy brown coat oily, thought to be for waterproofing and predator determent. Only the male has horns, which are prominently ringed, massive and forward curving.

Lacking speed and endurance, the waterbuck depends on cover as a refuge from predators. Despite its name, the waterbuck is not truly aquatic, although it does take water refuge to escape predators, lashing out with horns and sharp hooves to defend itself.

The waterbuck does not migrate or move great distances, so territories are usually held year-round. Gestation is nine months and calves are born year-round. Newborn calves are rapidly on their feet and are agile enough within a day to outrun a human. When discovered, calves tend to bolt rather than freeze. The mother hides her young for several weeks, staying nearby and returning three or four times a day to suckle the calf and to clean it so no odor is left to attract predators. After the initial hiding period, the calf lives in the herd until about nine months old, when it is expelled from the herd. Young males form bachelor herds and females stay together until sexually mature.