Interesting Facts About the Greater Kudu

The Greater Kudu, also known as Tragelaphus strepsiceros, is one of the two Tragelaphus species native to the African continent. The other one being the Lesser Kudu or T. imberbis.

The name “Kudu” or “Koodoo” is the Khoikhoi name for this type of antelope. Trag (Greek) refers to goat, and elaphos (Greek) refers to a deer. Other Greek terms such as Strepho and Keras mean “twist” and “horn,” respectively.

The antelope species was first described by Prussian zoologist Peter Simon Pallas in 1766. The Greater Kudu formerly has four subspecies, but recently, only three subspecies were classified as official subspecies based on their number of stripes, color, and horn length.

  1. s. strepsiceros – Located at the southern parts of Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana
  2. s. chora – Found in northeastern Africa, northern Kenya, Ethiopia, eastern Sudan, western Somalia, and Eritrea
  3. s. cottoni – Occurs in western Sudan and Chad

The classification of subspecies was based on their genetic differences found on a specimen in northern Kenya (T. s. chora) and several sampled from the southern part between Zimbabwe and Tanzania (T. s. strepsiceros). No specimen that represent the T. s. cottoni species were examined within the study.

The population of Kudu in the northern part of its range has decreased due to hunting and rapid habitat loss. But despite these factors, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List still categorized them as Least Concern, as there are a massive number of their population thriving in conservation areas around the continent.

Its eight levels of scientific classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Subfamily: Bovinae

Genus: Tragelaphus

Species: T. strepsiceros

The physical characteristics of a Greater Kudu

An adult Greater Kudu has a narrow body, long legs, and brown, reddish-brown or bluish-grey coat. It possesses four to twelve vertical white stripes along the torso. The color of its head appears darker than the rest of its body, and it has a tiny white chevron that runs between its eyes.

Male Greater Kudus, commonly referred to as bulls, tend to be larger than cows (female Greater Kudus) and are much noisier than them. Bulls also have beards that run along their throats, and large horns with two and a half twists, which measure 120 cm when straightened. The horns do not appear until a male Greater Kudu reaches 6-12 months of age.

Greater Kudus are recognized as one of the largest antelope species, with bulls weighing around 190-270 kg and standing up to 160 cm, whereas cows weigh only around 120-210 kg and measure around 100 cm tall at the shoulder.

The distribution and habitat of Greater Kudus

This antelope species is endemic to southern Africa, but smaller populations of the three subspecies are spread across east Africa. The population range extends from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, and the southern part of the continent, particularly in Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Small numbers of Greater Kudus are introduced in New Mexico, but they were never released in the wild.

Greater Kudus frequent habitats such as scrub woodlands, bushes, abandoned fields, degraded pastures, acacia woodlands, mopane bushes, hills, and mountains. They can also be seen in rocky bush areas, where it generally takes refuge to avoid the wild’s greatest predators.

The behavior of a Greater Kudu

A Greater Kudu has a lifespan of 7 to 8 years in captivity. They are usually active from day to night and are highly alert, making them highly unapproachable. When Greater Kudus detect danger through their radar-like ears, they will emit a hoarse alarm bark before running away.

Greater Kudus are not territorial mammals. Instead, they have homes. Maternal homes have an estimated range of 4 square kilometers and these can overlap with other homes of other maternal herds. Bulls do not usually show physical aggression toward each other, but sparring can sometimes occur between them, especially if they come in the same size and stature.

The diet of a Greater Kudu

These antelopes will occasionally venture plains where bushes are abundant. Their diet primarily consists of grass, leaves, shoots, roots, tubers, and fruits. They are especially fond of tangerines and oranges. In times of drought, they travel long distances just to find a water source.