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Wildebeest Black

This odd animal is certainly the most bizarre living antelope with the mane and tail of a horse, the face of a steer and the delicate legs of a buck. Its appearance is matched by its freaky behaviour. A phrase by W Cornwallis Harris (1840), read as follows, “A more whimsical compound than the Gnoo could scarcely have been thrown together, or a monster imagined of more fantastical and anomalous exterior”. The name ‘black” is misleading as the animal is a dark brown, while the name “white-tailed gnou”, which refers to the cream-white tail, is more relevant. “Gnu” is a Khoi-khoi word named after the animals’ alarm snort, a “ger-nu”.

The black wildebeest is endemic to South Africa and never existed elsewhere.

Description: A large antelope with a stiff, straight mane of long, pale-cream hair tipped with brown; a long white, horse-like tail; and the brush of brown, curly hair on the muzzle. The body is a dark yellow-brown that appears black from a distance. The face is darker in colour than the body. The back is hollow with both the shoulders and the buttocks at a higher level than the rump. A long beard stretches from the throat across the centre of the breast to the navel. Calves are a cream to light-brown at birth that continues to darken until an age of 18 months.

Trophy: Both genders have well-developed horns that have their origins in a thickened boss on the head and then extend forwards in a deep, downwards curve. The anterior halves of the horns are straight and then project vertically upwards with the tips bent slightly backwards.

Habitat requirement: Open grassy plains, with short grasses and without trees and shrubs are preferred. If located in a habitat that is not optimal, black wildebeest will transform the structure of the herbaceous vegetation destructively by ploughing the soil with the horns and front hooves.

There are two species and four subspecies of wildebeest:

•             Connochaetes gnou - black wildebeest

•             Connochaetes taurinus - blue wildebeest - (subspecies)

•             C.t. taurinus - southern brindled gnu (blue wildebeest)

•             C.t. cooksoni - Nyassa or Luangwa valley brindled gnu

•             C.t. johnstoni - Mozambique brindled gnu

•             C.t. albojubatus - East African white-bearded gnu.