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The greater kudu is easily distinguished from other antelopes by the six to ten white vertical stripes on its torso, and from the lesser kudu by a white band across the face between the eyes (this stripe is black on the lesser kudu).
Overall body color varies from reddish brown to blue-gray, with the darkest individuals found in the southern populations. The color of the males darkens with age. (By contrast, lesser kudu males get lighter as they age.) Males possess a beard that females lack. The coat color of the female is also somewhat different, varying from sandy yellowish-grey to russet, against which the thin stripes are conspicuous. Both sexes have a crest of hair that runs along the middle of the back and forms a mane. The tail is black-tipped with a white underside.
The most impressive features of the geater kudu are its spiral horns, which can be up to six feet long and usually have three full turns. Only males have horns.
One of the largest antelopes, the greater kudu stands 3-5 feet at the shoulder, is 6-8 feet long, and weighs 264-788 pounds; males are significantly larger than females. Despite their large size, kudu are accomplished jumpers, with heights of over 8 feet being cleared with ease.
Distribution and Habitat
Greater kudus are found in southern and eastern Africa, with the population being most dense in the south. In East Africa, the population is broken up and there are many isolated groups in the mountains. They live in habitats that provide bush and thicket cover. In the rainy season they remain in the deciduous woodlands. During the dry season they can be found in along the banks of rivers where there is rich vegetation.
Habits and Behaviors
Females live in herds of up to 3 head and their offspring. There is no obvious hierarchical rank in these groups. Sometimes the female groups combine to form larger groups, but these groups are temporary. Males live in bachelor herds of 2 to 10 head. It is unclear if males have a distinct hierarchical rank in their groups. Male bachelor herds do not overlap each other, but the range of one male may overlap two or three female herds. Males and females do not have any association with each other except during the mating season. Herds disperse during the rainy season when food is plentiful, while as the dry season reaches its peak, there becomes a high concentration in favorable areas.
Under normal circumstances, kudu will sneak away and hide from potential enemies. When startled, however, they flee with large jumps with their tails rolled upwards and forwards. Kudu often stop and look back after a running for a short distance, a frequently fatal habit.
Greater kudu have a wide repertoire of vocalizations, including barks, grunts, hooting bleats, and a strangulated whimper.
During the breeding season, aggression between males is common. When rival males meet, one stands with its mane erect in a posture that best exaggerates its size, while the other circles around. These displays can sometimes develop into fights, with one male locking its strong, spiral horns around the body of its opponent. Occasionally, the horns of the two males may become intertwined and, unable to free themselves from this position, both competitors may die.
Greater kudu are seasonal breeders in southern Africa. At the equator, they calve in the rainy season, which is from February to June, and mate near or after the end of the rains. One calf is born after a gestation period of about nine months. Calves remain hidden for two weeks before joining the herd, and are weaned at six months. Male calves remain in the maternity herd for 1 to 2 years, while the females remain in it longer. Females, if well nourished, can breed in two years, but most do not reach maturity until three years of age. Males are mature in five years. The average lifespan of a greater kudu in the wild is fifteen years.
Greater kudu feed on a wide variety of leaves, herbs, fruits, vines, flowers, and some new grass. They may water in the dry season, but are capable of surviving in a waterless region.
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This page was last updated on May 02, 2017.