||25 to 35
inches at the shoulder
||90 to 180
||12 years or
The shy and elusive bushbuck is widely distributed over
sub-Saharan Africa. In East Africa it is found in a variety of
habitats, though rarely on open land. Bushbucks have a lot of
individual and regional differences in their coat colors and
patterns. As many as 40 varieties have been described. In
general, bushbuck inhabiting deep forest have darker coats.
All varieties and both males and females have
geometrically shaped white patches or spots on the most mobile
parts of the body – the ears, chin, tail, legs and neck, as well
as a band of white at the base of the neck. Males make the
markings more visible during their displays when they arch their
backs and slowly circle one another, walking in a tense,
Though under some circumstances makes fight in earnest and
death results, the highly ritualized displays usually make
fighting unnecessary. The hierarchy among males is age-based –
as they get older and the chestnut color changes to dark brown,
they white markings are more conspicuous. Only male bushbucks
have horns, which are between 10 and 20 inches long and grow
straight back. At 10 months, young males sprout horns that are
strongly twisted and at maturity form the first loop of a spiral.
Other antelopes with spiral horns are sitatungas, bongos, elands
Bushbucks are forest-edge antelopes. They live in habitat
including rain forests, montane forests, forest-savanna mosaics
and bush savannas.
Bushbucks are basically solitary animals. Most group
associations, except for a female and her latest young, are very
temporary and only last a few hours or days. These antelopes
have small home ranges, which may overlap with those of other
bushbuck. Even so, there still is not much contact as adult
individuals prefer to stay by themselves in their separate areas.
Mature males usually go out of their way to avoid contact with
Usually most active during early morning and part of the
night, bushbucks become almost entirely nocturnal in areas where
they are apt to be disturbed frequently during the day. When
alarmed, individuals react in a variety of ways. If they are in
forest or thick bush, they may "freeze" in one position and
remain very still, their coloring camouflaging them. Sometimes
they will sink to the ground and lie flat, or they may bound
away, making a series of hoarse barks. When surprised in the
open, they sometimes stand still or slowly walk to the nearest
Bushbucks need some water but can subsist on dew if necessary.
Foods vary in different habitats, with leguminous herbs and
shrubs making up most of the diet; grass, fallen fruit, acacia
pods, tubers, bark and flowers are also eaten. Bushbucks move
about slowly and quietly when feeding, carefully selecting their
Caring for the Young
Bushbucks are not territorial but will defend an area that a
female in heat in using. After giving birth, the mother cleans
the newborn calf and eats the placenta. She leaves the calf well
hidden. When she visits and suckles it, she eats its dung so no
scent remains to attract predators. They young calf does not
accompany its mother for long periods during the day until it is
about 4 months old. A female and her calf often play together,
running in circle chasing each other.
Bushbucks are most vulnerable to predators when on the run,
but if cornered the male will fight bravely; if attacked, it may
become a dangerous foe.
The principal predator is the leopard, but lions, hyenas,
cheetahs, hunting dogs and crocodiles prey on bushbucks too. The
young are also caught by servals, golden cats, eagles and
pythons as well as chimpanzees and baboons. Even though baboons
sometimes eat the young, bushbucks continue to associate closely
with them at times, picking up fallen fruit and other foods that
foraging baboons drop.
Unlike buffaloes and many other animals, bushbucks do not
tolerate oxpeckers or other birds that help control insect pests.
As a result, they often have numerous ticks on their head and
neck. They also suffer from the common ungulate diseases,
including rinderpest, which diminished their numbers in the last
Did you know?
- The bushbuck's hunched-up gait makes it a slow and clumsy
runner, but it is a good swimmer and can jump 6-foot-high
- Although bushbucks live in both moist and dry habitats,
their most important requirement is good cover of forest or
bush to provide shelter and food.