Eland

The description of 'giant' for this eland refers to its horns, rather than its overall body size when compared with its relative, the common eland.

This is one of two species of eland, both of which occupy similar types of open savannah habitat. The eland is the largest of a number of related species, characterized by spiralling horns and vertical cream-coloured stripes along the flanks and haunches. A fully grown bull may weigh 2,000 lb (900 kg). Cows are smaller and more slight, with lighter horns and no mat of hair on the forehead.

Elands occupy large home ranges, using different habitats at different times of the year, and can cover in excess of 220 sq km (86 sq miles) per year. Approximately 14,000 eland live in the Serengeti National Park in East Africa, where they form small herds, usually consisting of less than 25 animals. Members of the groups remain together throughout the year. Males tend to be quite placid by nature. They are not easily observed, however, because they are nocturnal, hiding away during the daytime. If flushed from cover, they can run away at speeds up to about 70 kph (42 mph). Their range has contracted over recent years because of hunting pressures.

Male elands tend to be larger than females, but both sexes carry characteristic spiralling horns, which may be up to 1 m (3.25 ft) long.

Like many hoofed animals, eland males fight for dominance and the opportunity to mate with females. Competing males shove each other with locked horns, until one gives up and retreats. Elands are easily tamed and, due to their highly nutritious milk, tender meat and good-quality hides, people are trying to domesticate them on farms in Africa and Russia.

There is usually 1 calf, born after a gestation of 8 1/2 to 9 months; it lies hidden for a week, then follows the female, who suckles it for about 6 months.

Distribution: Mainly central Africa, from Cameroon and southern Chad to southwestern Sudan. Also occurs in a small area of West Africa.

Habitat: Savannah and open woodland.

Weight: 440 - 900 kg (970 - 1984 lb)

Length: 310 - 380 cm (122 - 150 in), including tail; up to 182 cm (72 in) tall.

Maturity: Females 15 months - 3 years; males 4 - 5 years.

Gestation Period: About 279 days; weaning occurs at 6 months.

Breeding: Single calf born.

Food: Herbivorous, grazing on grass and herbs, as well as browsing on taller vegetation.

Lifespan: Up to 25 years.

Status: Vulnerable.

Horns

Straight and spiralling along their length, the horns can measure up to 120 cm (48 in).

Patterning

A series of parallel greyish-white bands runs down each side of the body from behind the shoulders.

Dewlap

This fold of skin extends down on to the chest.

In spite of their bulk, these elands can jump over 150 cm (60 in).

EARLY MOMENTS

Giving birth is a dangerous time, but young are up and able to walk within minutes of being born.

Giant Eland

Size: 2.1 - 3.4 m (7 - 11.25 ft); 330 - 1,000 kg (730 - 2,200 lb).

Food: Leaves and fruit.

Maturity: Males 4 years; females 3 years.

Life span: Up to 23 years.

They are woodland animals, while the slightly smaller common elands are associated with grasslands. They range from Senegal to southern Sudan. As a member of the spiral-horned antelopes this species is more closely related to cattle than the smaller grazing antelopes. Elands resemble cattle in many ways and as a result they are often hunted for their meat. Giant elands are now an endangered species because of this. Young and female giant elands have reddish coats, but this fades to grey in adult males. Both sexes grow horns, but the males' are twice the size of the females'. Giant elands live in small groups of about 25 individuals.

Gallery of Eland