As their name suggests, waterbucks are seldom found far from water. However, African grasslands are dry places where there is not enough rain for trees to grow, so as a result waterbucks are most often found in valley bottoms, where water drains from higher areas.
The many races of this waterbuck vary in coloration from yellowish-brown or reddish-brown to gray and grayish-black; some have a white ring or patch on the rump. It has large, hairy ears, which are white inside and tipped with black, and the male has heavy, much-ringed horns, which sweep back in a crescent shape.
The many races of this waterbuck vary in coloration from yellowish-brown or reddish-brown to gray and grayish-black; some have a white ring or patch on the rump. It has large, hairy ears, which are white inside and tipped with black, and the male has heavy, much-ringed horns, which sweep back in a crescent shape. A large animal, standing 4 to 414 ft (1.2 to 1.4 m) at the shoulder, it weighs 350 to 500 lb (159 to 227 kg). Glands in the skin exude a musky-smelling oily secretion, and the meat is easily tainted when the animal is skinned, so it is not much hunted. The chief predators are lion, leopard and hunting dogs. True to their name, waterbuck spend much time near water and drink often, they take refuge in reedbeds when threatened. They are grazers feeding on tender young grass shoots.
There are two populations of waterbuck. The Defassa waterbucks range from the Horn of Africa across the northern fringe of the Congo Basin to the savannahs of West Africa. The southern group, known as the Ellisprymnus waterbucks, lives in parts of south-eastern Africa, such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Only male waterbucks have horns. There are two races of waterbucks: the northern population has a flash of white on the rump against a background coat of reddish hairs while the southern group has a circle of white on the rump and a grey coat on the rest of the body.
Waterbucks live in small herds. The herds are primarily made up of females and their young. Solitary males may adopt a territory that overlaps with those of other herds. These males mate with any females that enter their territory. The females are attracted to the male because he protects them from harassment by younger males. Younger males are non-territorial and have a more opportunistic mating strategy.
Distribution: One population in the south-east and another in West and Central Africa.
Habitat: Grasslands close to rivers and waterholes.
Food: Grass and low-growing herbs.
Size: 1.7 - 2.3 m (5.5 - 7.5 ft); 160 - 300 kg (352.75 - 661.5 lb).
Maturity: 3 - 6 years.
Breeding: Northern population calves once a year, southern group calves every 10 months.
Life span: 20 years.
Status: Lower risk.