||Common waterbuck (Kobus
defassa waterbuck (Kobus
||50 inches at the
||330 to 500 pounds
||Up to 18 years in
riveine forests and woodlands
leopards, hunting dogs, cheetahs,
Despite its name, the waterbuck is not truly aquatic nor
as much at home in water and swamps as is the sitatunga or
lechwe. It does, however, take refuge there to escape predators.
The waterbuck has a long-haired, often shaggy brown-gray coat
that emits a smelly, greasy secretion thought to be for
waterproofing. In East Africa two types occur, the common
waterbuck and the defassa waterbuck, distinguished only by the
white pattern on the rump. The common waterbuck has a
conspicuous white ring encircling a dark rump, while the defassa
has wide white patches on either side of the rump.
The waterbuck is a large, robust animal; males are generally
about 25 percent larger than the females. Waterbucks have large,
rounded ears and white patches above the eyes, around the nose
and mouth and on the throat. Only the males have horns, which
are prominently ringed and as long as 40 inches. The horns are
widely spaced and curve gracefully back and up. They are
sometimes used with lethal results when males fight one another
As its name would indicate, the waterbuck inhabits areas that
are close to water in savanna grasslands, gallery forests and
riverine woodlands south of the Sahara. Such habitats not only
provide sustenance but long grasses and watery places in which
to hide from predators.
Although males do compete for and hold territories, the
waterbuck is generally a quiet, sedentary animal. Like some
other antelopes, the male does not mark his territory with dung
or urine, as his presence and smell are apparently sufficient.
He tries to retain females that wander into his area, but is
seldom successful for long, since the females have large home
ranges and, in herds of five to 25, are constantly crossing in
and out of males territories. Waterbucks do not migrate or move
great distances, so territories are usually held year round.
The waterbuck's habitat furnishes them with a year-round
source of food. Mainly grazers, they consume types of coarse
grass seldom eaten by other grazing animals and occasionally
browse leaves from certain trees and bushes. They feed in the
mornings and at night, and rest and ruminate the remainder of
Caring for the Young
Calves are generally born throughout the year, although breeding
becomes more seasonal in some areas, after which a single young
is born. The mother hides her young for about 3 weeks, returning
three to four times a day to suckle it. Each suckling session
lasts only about five minutes, during which time the mother
cleans the calf so that no odor is left to attract predators.
Even so, there is a high rate of calf mortality.
Although the calves begin to eat grass when they are young,
they are nursed for as long as 6 to 8 months. After weaning,
they begin to wander-off young males often form all-male groups
near the occupied territories, while the young females stay in
their mother's group. The waterbuck does not reach adult weight
until about 31/2 years. Females mate again soon after bearing
young (within 2 to 5 weeks) so the population can increase
Hyenas, lions, and leopards are the major predators, but
crocodiles, hunting dogs and cheetahs also take waterbuck.
Did you know?
- The meat of older waterbuck takes on an unpleasant odor
from the waterproofing secretions of its sweat glands,
prompting predators to choose other prey.
- If the defessa and common waterbucks have bordering ranges
they often interbreed; as a result, some scientists consider
the two groups as a single species.