SIZE: Shoulder height (m) 1 m, (f) 0,9 m; mass (m) 100 kg, (f) 80 kg. Only males have the lyre-shaped horns.
COLOUR: Upperparts of body and flanks reddish-yellow, underparts and insides of legs white. A white band extends from the white belly to chest and chin. Front of forelegs blackish. Hair long and rough.
MOST LIKE: Its close relative, the Puku, but is slightly larger and the male’s horns are longer. The black bands down the front of the forelegs clearly distinguish it from the puku.
HABITAT: Grassy flood plains and shallow-water in seasonal swamps. Rarely found more than a kilometre or two from swamp or river with permanent water.
As a result of its amphibious habits, the lechwe is preyed on by a variety of predators, from crocodiles and pythons to lions, leopards, spotted hyaenas and wild dogs. Like the reedbuck, it sometimes flattens itself on the ground to avoid detection, suddenly taking off in startled leaps and bounds. Lechwe may congregate in hundreds or thousands, although most herds number about 20-30 individuals.
The ram will defend his territory with threatening displays, and will fight if an intruder tries to mate with one of his ewes. The clash of horns during these fierce, sometimes fatal, duels may be heard a long distance away. Calves can be born at any time of year. Cows leave the herd to give birth and hide their newborn calves for two to three weeks in the shelter of reeds on an island or other dry spot. Calf mortality is high: usually about 50%.
The Lechwe, or Red Lechwe, is a fleet-footed water-lover, skimming across wetlands and swamps with the ease and grace of a gazelle, although it is a bit clumsy and uncertain on hard ground. Well adapted to wet conditions, its long hooves splay widely over soft ground, making it sure footed and speedy over mud, water and reeds. This robust, long-haired antelope is a strong swimmer, and will dive into water without hesitation if pursued.
The lechwe comes on to dry land only to rest and calve: the only antelope that is more adapted to water is the sitatunga. Lechwe are medium-sized antelope, with coats of long, rough hair. The hindquarters are higher than the forequarters, and black encircles the legs between the hooves and the false hooves. They have a white patch around the eyes. They eat a variety of grasses, sedges, shrubs and semi-aquatic plants, selecting for new growth.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND:
• Chobe National Park
• Linyanti Swamp
• Okavango Delta
• Moremi Game Reserve
• Lechwe Plains
• South Luangwa