Throughout central Africa, from south of the Sahara to north of the Kalahari deserts.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Male bushbucks are bigger than females, with weights ranging from 40 to 80 kg and shoulder heights from 70 to 100 cm. Females weigh about 25 to 60 kg and are 65 to 85 cm tall. Only males have horns, which usually spiral once and are fairly straight, parallel to one another, and up to a half meter long. Females are usually a lighter brown than males. Both sexes have white spots and stripes, the patterns of which vary geographically.
Range mass: 25 to 80 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Catalog Number: USNM 182267
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): E. Heller
Year Collected: 1911
Locality: Maji-Ya-Chumvi, Coast Province, Kenya, Africa
- Type: Heller, E. 1913 Sep 16. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 61 (13): 1.
Bushbucks can be found throughout their broad distribution wherever there is adequate cover for concealment, nearly irrespective of altitude or aridity. They live in forest edges or brushy cover associated with rivers and streams. During the night they move out of their home thicket to somewhat more open areas to feed.
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
Bushbucks are browsers. They eat herbs and the leaves, twigs, and flowers of a large number of plant species. Although they will eat a wide variety of plant species when hungry, they are somewhat selective when possible, prefering knobbly creeper and sausage tree. They will also occasionally eat fresh grass.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 15.3 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Young can be born at any time of year, but in arid regions there is a peak in birth rates during the rainy season. Gestation requires only 180 days, allowing a female to produce more than one calf per year. A single calf weighing about 4 kg is born. The calf does not follow its mother out into the open to forage until it is four months old. It remains hidden in the dense underbrush in the mean time, and its mother returns periodically to let it nurse. Sexual maturity is reached at one year, but males' horns do not reach full size until three years of age.
Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 5.93 to 6.23 months.
Average gestation period: 5.99 months.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average birth mass: 3800 g.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 496 days.
Parental Investment: altricial ; post-independence association with parents
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Tragelaphus scriptus
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Tragelaphus scriptus
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
There are no special conservation efforts for this species. They are able to coexist with human habitation to a greater extent than many other species, and in some areas they are considered a pest and their population is controlled.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
East (1999) estimated the total population of Bushbuck at 1,340,000, likely an underestimate. Its numbers are stable over considerable parts of its range, but are decreasing in densely settled regions (various authors in East 1999).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Bushbucks cause or are involved in a number of problems. Perhaps most seriously, their populations are controlled in areas near domestic cattle. Since bushbuck live among the trees and shrubs associated with rivers, they are frequently bitten by tsetse flies, which could then infect the cattle with nagana (sleeping sickness). Bushbuck cause damage in pine forestry areas by nibbling the tops of the young trees, resulting in excessive branching. Also, they frequently live on the outskirts of towns and cities, and in these areas they damage peoples' gardens.
These antelopes have been hunted as a food source.
Positive Impacts: food
The kéwel (Tragelaphus scriptus) is a small to medium-sized antelope widespread in west and central Africa. Formerly and alongside the imbabala it was generically known as the bushbuck, however, it has since been found to be a species in its own right, with a separate geographic distribution. Of all the other tragelaphine antelopes, the kéwel is most closely related to the nyala (Tragelaphus angasi).
The kéwel is distributed from Senegal and southern Mauritania across the Sahel, east to Ethiopia and Eritrea and south to Angola and the southern DRC. It is common across this broad geographic distribution and is found in wooded savannas, forest-savanna mosaics, penetrating into some of the rain forest zones of the southern Central African Republic, Gabon, DRC and the Congo, in montane forests of the Bamenda Highlands and Mt. Cameroon and in the semi-arid zones of the Ethiopian lowlands and Eritrea. It does not occur in the deep rain forests of the central Congo Basin.
Description and genetics
The kéwel is in general smaller than other tragelaphines, with a mainly red or yellow-brown ground colour. It is conspicuously striped with several vertical and at least one horizontal stripe and there is little to no sexual dimorphism with respect to patterning and ground colouration. It has been referred to as the harnessed antelope or guib harnaché. The conspicuousness of its patterning tends to attenuate sightly in a west to east cline along the species range, being least striking in the decula population of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Seven other genetically-based population groupings exist, some do not correspond to previously described subspecies. The nominate scriptus population occurs in west Africa including Senegal, Gambia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, while two populations occur along the upper and lower Volta valley, respectively, one in the Niger Basin in Nigeria as far east as the Cross River, phaleratus south of the Bamenda Highlands through Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, DRC to northern Angola, bor from Lake Chad and the Schari across the CAR to the Nile, and lastly dodingae east of the Nile in lowland areas of southern Sudan and northern Uganda.
As the first of the bushbucks to be described by Pallas in 1766 as Antilope scripta from Senegal, it retains the original species name for the bushbuck. Its common name, Kéwel, is taken from the Wolof language spoken in Senegal. As most studies of the bushbucks have focused on the imbabala (Tragelaphus sylvaticus), very little is known about the biology of the kéwel, except for what can be gleaned from museum specimens and hunting trophies.
- Moodley Y, Bruford MW, Bleidorn C, Wronski T, Apio A, Plath M (2008) Analysis of mitochondrial DNA data reveals non-monophyly in the bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) complex. Mammalian Biology, doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2008.05.003
- Moodley Y, Bruford MW. (2007) Molecular biogeography: Towards an integrated framework for conserving pan-African biodiversity. PLoS ONE. 2:e454.
- Wronski T, Moodley Y. (2009) Bushbuck, harnessed antelope or both? Gnusletter, 28(1):18-19.