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Swahili Name: Kongoni
Scientific Name: Alcelaphus buselaphus
Size: 48 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 165 to 350 pounds
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Habitat: Open plains
Diet: Herbivorous/grazer
Gestation: 8 months
Predators: Cheetahs, jackals, lions, hyenas, leopards,hunting dogs, humans


Coke's hartebeest, also called kongoni, is the most widespread hartebeest. It is found on the open grassy plains and tree grasslands in southern Kenya and Tanzania.

Fysieke kenmerken

The hartebeest is a large, fawn-colored antelope that at first glance seems strangely misshapen and less elegant than other antelopes. Clumsy in appearance, it is hump-shouldered, with a steeply sloping back, slim legs and a long, narrow face. It is far from clumsy, however, and is in fact one of the fastest antelopes and most enduring runners. These qualities gave rise to the name "hartebeest," which means "tough ox."

Scientists differ about the classification of the hartebeest. Some consider the group to have several geographic representatives of the same species, while others think it represents different species. The shape of the horns and the color of the coat seem to be the most important diagnostic indicators. Hunter's, Jackson's, Lichtenstein's and Coke's hartebeest are found in East Africa.


Hartebeest are mainly found in medium and tall grasslands, including savannas. They are more tolerant of high grass and woods than other alcelaphines (archetypical plains antelopes).

Het gedrag

The hartebeest is one of the most sedentary antelopes (making it easy to hunt), but it does move around more when larger groupings form during the dry seasons or in periods of drought, to seek water and better grazing. At other times the females form small groups of five to 12 animals that wander around their home range. Most mature males become solitary and spread out in adjoining territories. Hartebeests go to water regularly, but in some circumstances territorial males appear to go without drinking for rather long periods. The home ranges are usually densely populated. When a territorial male returns from watering, he may find another in his place.

Females are free to seek the best grazing in their home range, but males cannot leave their territories for long if they intend to keep them. Successful breeding only takes place within the territories-open, short-grass areas of ridges or rises on plateaus are the most favored spots. Males strenuously defend their territories; they often stand on open, elevated areas to keep a lookout for intruders. Should a territorial male be challenged, a fight may develop. Males are aggressive, especially so during breeding peaks. Like many antelopes, however, hartebeests have developed ways of fighting that determine dominance without many fatalities or serious injuries. A ritualized series of head movements and body stances, followed by depositing droppings on long-established dung piles that mark the territory's borders, normally precede any actual clashing of horns and fighting. After the dominance ritual, one male may leave. If not, the hartebeest with its stout horns, short, strong neck and heavily muscled shoulders, is well-prepared for fighting. If the dispute over a territory is serious and both males are prepared to fight over it, severe injury may result.


The hartebeest feeds almost entirely on grass, but is not very selective and quite tolerant of poor-quality food. It has suffered from the expansion of cattle raising, as hartebeests and cattle compete for the same food.

Zorg voor jonge dieren

The social organization of the hartebeest is somewhat different than that of other antelopes. Adult females do not form permanent associations with other adults; instead, they are often accompanied by up to four generations of their young. Female offspring remain close to their mothers up to the time they give birth to calves of their own. Even male offspring may remain with their mothers for as long as 3 years, considered an unusually long bonding period. As groups of females move in and out of male territories, the males sometimes try to chase away the older offspring. Their mothers become defensive and protect them from the males. Although bachelor herds of young males are also formed, they are less structured than those of some antelopes, and age classes are not as conspicuous.

Young are born throughout the year, but conception and breeding peaks may be influenced by the availability of food. The behavior of the female hartebeest when she gives birth is very different from that of the wildebeest. Instead of calving in groups on open plains, the hartebeest female isolates herself in scrub areas to give birth and leaves the young calf hidden for a fortnight, only visiting it briefly to suckle.


Juvenile mortality is thought to be relatively low, despite the number of potential predators. Cheetahs and jackals prey on small calves, while young and adult hartebeests are killed by lions, hyenas, leopards, hunting dogs and people.

Wist je dat?

  • The ancient Egyptians are said to have semidomesticated the hartebeest for use as a sacrificial animal. Because the species competes with cattle for food, further attempts at domestication are unlikely.
  • Although a prolific breeder and even a dominant species in some areas, the hartebeest has probably suffered the greatest reduction in range of all African ruminants

copyright: Paul Janssen