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Lechwe

Kobus, genus of antelopes, family Bovidae (order Artiodactyla), containing about six species—the Waterbucks and Lechwes, the Kob, and the Puku.

The Lechwe antelope, a member of the Waterbuck and Kob tribe, ranks second only to the Nyala among the most aquatic African antelopes. The coat is greasy and water-repellent. The Lechwe is one of only three antelopes (including the closely related kob and the topi) known to form breeding arenas, or leks, with a high population density.

There are two species of Lechwes: the Common Lechwe and the Nile Lechwe.

The three subspecies of the Common Lechwe

  • The Red Lechwe, Kafue Lechwe, and Black Lechwe —inhabit floodplains bordering marshes and swamps of the southern savanna, from south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through Zambia and northern Botswana to Angola.

The Nile Lechwe lives on the Nile floodplain bordering Al-Sudd swamp in South Sudan.

Lechwes are sizeable, with lyre-shaped, heavily ridged horns (males only) antelopes with a sturdy build. Hindquarters are higher and more massive than forequarters, the neck is long, and the muzzle is short and rather blunt. Lechwes are unusual in having widely splayed, elongated hooves that support them on soft ground (e.g., sitatunga).

Lechwes enter water to feed on aquatic grasses, an abundant resource underutilized by most other herbivores, and graze the grasses that spring up as floodwaters recede. They are quite literally “edge” species; on the widest, flattest floodplains, thousands of Lechwes migrate distances of up to 80 km (50 miles) as the water rises and falls with the rainy and dry seasons.