RED HARTEBEEST - Alcelaphus buselaphus
SIZE: Shoulder height (m) 1,25 m, (f) 1,1 m; mass
(m) 150 kg, (f) 120 kg. Both sexes have horns.
COLOUR: Glossy reddish brown, with a black blaze on
the face and well-defined, off-white rump and light
GESTATION PERIOD: 8 months
RECORD LENGTH OF HORNS: 66 cm.
SPEED: 65 km
MOST LIKE: Lichenstein's Hartebeest, which is more
yellowish and lacks the black blaze on the face and
the well-defined whitish markings on the rump.
HABITAT: Open country, from grassland to semidesert.
Hartebeest have an excellent sense of smell and hearing,
but their sense of sight is poor. When alarmed, they tend
to mill about in seeming confusion, snorting nervously before
running off. Once in its stride, a hartebeest can achieve
a speed of 55 km/hr, zigzagging left and right in its characteristic
bouncing flight, which make it more difficult for predators
to catch them. Like the blue wildebeest, it has an uncanny
sense of direction and will find water and fresh grazing
after rain has fallen a considerable distance away. Expectant
females leave the herd in early summer and give birth to
a single calf, usually between September and December, in
a sheltered place. The female visits the calf to suckle
and clean it. Once it is strong enough, it joins the herd
with its mother. Mother hartebeest can recognize their young
from a distance of 300 m.
They avoid dense woodland, and are dependent on surface
water. They are predominantly grazers.
Hartebeest has a very characteristic elongated, ungainly face,
goatlike eyes, and humped shoulders. Most individuals are a
reddish-brown colour, although this does vary to yellow-brown
or tawny. They have a black forehead, with a patch of reddish-brown
across the face between and in front of the eyes, and a black
band on top of the muzzle. The name comes from the Dutch hartbeest.
Red hartebeest are associated predominantly with open country
such as grassland, including fairly arid regions such as semi-desert
Red hartebeest are gregarious, and usually live in herds of
15 - 20, although larger herds are seen in Botswana at certain
times of year, and aggregations of more than 10 000 animals
have been seen on massive migrations in the Kalahari Desert.
The more usual, smaller herds are made up of territorial males
with their females and offspring, and usually remain stable
for up to three years. Challenges between rival males often
result in vicous fights, during which they interlock their horns
and drag each other to their knees. In the absence of a territorial
bull, an adult female will lead the herd. Territorial bulls
often climb on top of a termite mound to advertise their presence
to other hartebeest, and to keep a watchful eye for lions, cheetahs,
leopards, wild dogs and hyaenas.
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