The Defassa Waterbuck is found west of the western Rift Valley and south of the Sahel from Eritrea in the east to Guinea Bissau in the west; its most northerly point of distribution is in southern Mali. A population still exists in Niokola-Koba in Senegal. Defassa also range east of the Congo Basin forest, spreading west below the basin’s southern limit through Zambia into Angola. Another arm extends north, west of the Congo Basin to the Zaïre R. in Congo Republic. Defassa are extinct in Gambia (though vagrants may enter from Senegal) (Spinage in press).
East of the eastern Rift Valley, the Defassa is replaced by the Common Waterbuck, which extends southwards to about the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi N.P. in KwaZulu-Natal, and to central Namibia. Common Waterbuck are extinct in Ethiopia (though Defassa remain) (Spinage in press).
There are two main groups of waterbuck. The ellipsiprymnus group is found throughout southeast Africa. The defassa group is found in northeastern, central, and western Africa (Kingdon, 1982).
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Waterbuck have long bodies and necks and short legs. The hair is coarse, and they have a mane on their necks (Estes, 1991). Their head and body length ranges from 177 - 235 cm and shoulder height from 120 - 136 cm. Only male waterbuck have horns, which are curved forward and vary in length from 55 - 99 cm. The length of the horns is determined by the age of the waterbuck (Kingdon, 1982). Body color ranges from gray to red-brown and darkens with age. The lower part of the legs is black with white rings above the hooves (Estes, 1991).
Range mass: 160 to 300 kg.
Average basal metabolic rate: 148.949 W.
Habitat and Ecology
Waterbuck prefer grassland habitat that is close to water. The best habitats are by draining lines and in valleys. While they prefer dry ground, they remain close to water for food and as an escape from predators (Estes, 1991).
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland
Waterbuck are very water dependent. They eat a variety of grasses, both medium and short in length. Their diet is very rich in protein. When the amount of available grass is low, waterbuck eat other herbs to satisfy their needs (Estes, 1991).
Life History and Behavior
Status: captivity: 18.0 years.
Status: captivity: 18.7 years.
Status: wild: 18.5 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Male waterbuck mature at six years of age, and females reach maturity in three years. Breeding near the equator is perennial. The generations in these populations are spaced about ten months apart. In northern Africa, the waterbuck calve annually. The gestation period is about eight to eight and a half months. A few days before calving, mothers isolate themselves in thickets. After birth, it takes newborns about half an hour to gain their feet. The young calves remain hidden for two to four weeks (Estes, 1991).
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 9.07 to 9.57 months.
Range weaning age: 6 to 7 months.
Average birth mass: 9000 g.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 771 days.
Parental Investment: altricial
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Kobus ellipsiprymnus
There is 1 barcode sequence available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is the 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. Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Kobus ellipsiprymnus
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/conservation dependent
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
East (1999) produced a total population estimate of about 200,000. This includes approximately 95,000 Defassa Waterbuck and 105,000 Common. Overall population trend is decreasing for both subspecies.
Important populations of the Defassa Waterbuck persist in areas such as Niokolo-Koba (Senegal), Comoe (Côte d'Ivoire), Arly-Singou and Nazinga (Burkina Faso), Mole and Bui (Ghana), Pendjari (Benin), the national parks and hunting zones of North Province (Cameroon), Manovo-Gounda-St. Floris (Central African Republic), Moukalaba (Gabon), Garamba and Virunga (Congo-Kinshasa), the Awash Valley and Omo-Mago-Murule (Ethiopia), Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks (Uganda), Serengeti, Moyowosi-Kigosi, Ugalla River and Katavi-Rukwa (Tanzania) and Kafue (Zambia), but about half of these populations are in decline because of poaching (East 1999).
Important populations of the Common Waterbuck occur in areas such as Tsavo, Laikipia, Kajiado, Lake Nakuru and the coastal rangelands (Kenya), Tarangire and Selous-Mikumi (Tanzania), the Luangwa Valley (Zambia), and Kruger, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi and private land (South Africa) (East 1999).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Waterbuck are hunted for sport in Africa and are found in zoos throughout the world (Kingdon, 1982).
Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material
Waterbuck stand 120 to 136 cm (47 to 54 in) at the shoulder. Head-and-body length ranges from 140 to 240 cm (55 to 94 in) and tail length from 10 to 45 cm (3.9 to 18 in). Males weigh 200–300 kg (440–660 lb) and females 160–200 kg (350–440 lb). Their coats are reddish brown in colour and become progressively darker with age; they have a white 'bib' under their throats and white on their rumps. The waterproofing secretions of the waterbuck's sweat glands produce an unpleasant odor in its meat, unless the animal is skinned carefully. According to African myth, the meat of the waterbuck is not edible, but this is untrue; whilst not especially tasty, waterbuck venison is safe to eat. The long, spiral-structured horns, found only in males, sweep back and up.
Waterbuck are found in scrub and savanna areas near water, where they eat grasses. Despite their name, waterbuck do not spend much time in the water, but will take refuge there to escape predators. They are diurnal. Females gather in herds of between two and 600 individuals. Males keep territories of around 300 acres (1.2 km²) during their prime. They usually lose their territories before the age of 10.
The waterbuck occurs in two main groups, which formerly have been treated as separate species, but they interbreed where their ranges come into contact. The first group is the defassa waterbuck with a white rump patch. It is found west of the Gregory Rift, ranging from Ethiopia west to Senegal and south to Zambia. The second is the ellipsen waterbuck, which has a white, ellipse-shaped ring on the rump that extends above the tail. It is found in southeast Africa, ranging from southern Somalia to KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) and inland to the Gregory Rift and Botswana. Some authorities accept only these two as valid subspecies, with the trinomial K. e. defassa for the defassa waterbuck and K. e. ellipsiprymnus for the ellipsen waterbuck. Others treat the defassa and ellipsen waterbucks as subspecies groups, with as many as 13 separate subspecies in total, among others based on differences in overall colour. In that case, the ellipsen waterbuck includes the first four subspecies in the following list (ellipsiprymnus to thikae), while the defassa waterbuck includes the remainder:
- K. e. ellipsiprymnus (Ellipsen Waterbuck) group:
- K. e. ellipsiprymnus Ogilby, 1833
- K. e. kondensis Matschie, 1911
- K. e. pallidus Matschie, 1911
- K. e. thikae Matschie, 1910
- K. e. defassa (Defassa Waterbuck) group:
- K. e. adolfifriderici Matschie, 1910.
- K. e. annectens Schwarz, 1913
- K. e. crawshayi P. L. Sclater, 1894
- K. e. defassa Rüppell, 1835
- K. e. harnieri Murie, 1867.
- K. e. penricei W. Rothschild, 1895
- K. e. tjaederi Lönnberg, 1907
- K. e. tschadensis Schwarz, 1913
- K. e. unctuosus Laurillard, 1842
Kobus (New Latin) is from koba, an African name. The species name ellipsiprymnus refers to the white ring on the rump. Ellipes from Greek means wanting, defective: an ellipse is a shape deviating from a circle; prumnos (Greek) means the hind part.
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- IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). "Kobus ellipsiprymnus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2011-06-15. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as Least concern
- Kingdon, Jonathan (1997). The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-408355-2.
- Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Haltenorth, Theodor; Diller, Helmut (1980). Collins Field Guide to Mammals of Africa including Madagascar. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-00-219778-2.
- "AWF: Wildlife: Waterbuck". awf.org. African Wildlife Foundation.
- "ADW: Kobus ellipsiprymnus: Information". animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu. Animal Diversity.
- C Spinage (2 December 2012). A Territorial Antelope: The Uganda Waterbuck. Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-323-15475-8. Retrieved 27 September 2013.