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 basinâs southern limit through Zambia into Angola. Another arm extends north, west of the Congo Basin to the ZaÃ¯re 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
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 (CÃ´te 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
Taxonomy and etymology
The scientific name of the waterbuck is Kobus ellipsiprymnus. The waterbuck is one of the six species of the genus Kobus and belongs to the family Bovidae. It was first described by Irish naturalist William Ogilby in 1833. The generic name Kobus is a New Latin word, originating from an African name, koba. The specific name ellipsiprymnus refers to the white elliptical ring on the rump. It is composed of two Greek words : ellipes, which means lacking; and prumnos, which means the hind part.
The type specimen of the waterbuck was collected by South African hunter-explorer Andrew Steedman in 1832. This specimen was named Antilope ellispiprymnus by Ogilby in 1833. This species was transferred to the genus Kobus and named K. ellipsiprymnus in 1840. In 1835, German naturalist Eduard Rüppell collected another specimen, which differed from Steedman's specimen in having a prominent white ring on its rump. Considering it a separate species, Rüppell gave it the Amharic name "defassa" waterbuck and scientific name Antilope defassa. Presently, these two are considered to be the same species, K. ellipsiprymnus.
37 subspecies of the waterbuck had been initially recognised on the basis of pelage colour. They classified into two groups - the Ellipsen waterbuck group and the Defassa waterbuck group. Owing to the high variability of coat colour in the Defassa waterbuck group, as many as 29 subspecies were included in it; the Ellipsen waterbuck group consisted of eight subspecies. In 1971, however, the number of subspecies was reduced to thirteen (four for the Ellipsen waterbuck group and nine Defassa waterbuck group). These subspecies are often found to interbreed in Tanzania and Kenya, where their ranges overlap extensively. Though they occur in Zambia as well, their ranges are separated by relief features or by the Muchinga escarpment. The list of subspecies is as follows:
- K. e. ellipsiprymnus (Ellipsen waterbuck) group: Found in southeast Africa, ranging from southern Somalia to KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) and inland to the Gregory Rift and Botswana. Includes the following four subspecies:
- K. e. ellipsiprymnus Ogilby, 1833
- K. e. kondensis Matschie, 1911 (including lipuwa, kulu)
- K. e. pallidus Matschie, 1911
- K. e. thikae Matschie, 1910 (including kuru and canescens)
- K. e. defassa (Defassa waterbuck) group: Found west of the Gregory Rift, ranging from Ethiopia west to Senegal and south to Zambia. Includes the following nine subspecies:
- K. e. adolfi-friderici Matschie, 1906 (including fulvifrons, nzoiae and raineyi)
- K. e. annectens Schwarz, 1913 (including schubotzi)
- K. e. crawshayi P. L. Sclater, 1894 (including uwendensis, frommiand münzneri)
- K. e. defassa Rüppell, 1835 (including matschiei and hawashensis)
- K. e. harnieri Murie, 1867 (including avellanifrons, ugandae, dianae, ladoensis, cottoni, breviceps, albertensis and griseotinctus)
- K. e. penricei W. Rothschild, 1895
- K. e. tjäderi Lönnberg, 1907 (including angusticeps and powelli)
- K. e. tschadensis Schwarz, 1913
- K. e. unctuosus Laurillard, 1842 (including togoensis)
The waterbuck is the largest of the kob antelopes. It is a sexually dimorphic antelope, with the males larger and heavier than the females. The head-and-body length is typically between 177–235 cm (70–93 in) and the average height is between 120 and 136 cm (47 and 54 in). Males reach approximately 127 cm (50 in) at the shoulder, while females reach 119 cm (47 in). Males typically weigh 198–262 kg (437–578 lb) and females 161–214 kg (355–472 lb). The tail is 22–45 cm (8.7–17.7 in) long.
The waterbuck is of a robust build. The shaggy coat is reddish brown to grey, and becomes progressively darker with age. Though apparently thick, the hair is sparse on the coat. The hair on the neck is, however, long and shaggy. When sexually excited, the skin of the waterbuck secretes a greasy substance, giving it the name "greasy kob". The face is marked with a white muzzle and light eyebrows and insides of the ears. There is a cream-coloured patch called "bib" on the throat. The neck is long, while the legs are short.
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.
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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.
- Spinage, C. (1982). A Territorial Antelope. Oxford: Elsevier Science. pp. 1–10. ISBN 978-0-323-15475-8.
- Huffman, B. "Waterbuck". Ultimate Ungulate. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Skinner, J. D.; Chimimba, Christian T. (2005). The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 681–2. ISBN 0521844185.
- Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 720. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Newell, T. L. "Kobus ellipsiprymnus (Waterbuck)". University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- Estes, R. D. (2004). The Behavior Guide to African Mammals : Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates (4th ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 107–11. ISBN 0-520-08085-8.