Waterbucks are large antelopes. They are found in two groups occurring as two different species. According to the African myth the meat of the Waterbuck is not edible because of the unpleasant odor produced by their sweat glands.
Waterbuck can be divided into two separate groups who often interbreed when they come in the range of contact and they have their own characteristic identification sign. The first group is Defassa waterbuck who carry a white rump patch. The second is the Ellipsen waterbuck who carry a white ellipse shaped ring on the rump which extends above the tail.
Height: A Waterbuck stands up to a height of 120 to 130 centimeters.
Weight: Female Waterbucks weigh around 160-200 kg. and males weigh about 200-300 kg.
Body: Waterbucks are large creatures, having straight backs with shaggy and coarse coats. Males have sharp pointed horns which have ring like features and curved upwards and backwards. Females do not have horns and are therefore easily recognizable.
Color: The hue of their fur ranges from grayish brown to reddish brown which gets darker as they get older. The lower part of the legs has a black tone with white rings above hooves.
Picture 1 – Waterbuck
Head: Waterbucks have large rounded ears. There are white patches present above their eyes, around nose, mouth and on the throat.
The Waterbucks have certain special behavioral characteristics.
Waterbucks are generally more active in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Territorial males usually defend large areas near water bodies, or streams throughout the year.
The Waterbucks are gregarious by nature and live in a herd of 5-30 which is usually headed by an old bull.
The young males tend to form independent groups.
Waterbucks, if threatened, will take shelter in shallow water or hide themselves in reeds up to the nose.
The males may attack humans when injured.
Waterbucks freely associate with impala and other antelopes.
Males of this species maintain their territories that stretch over three hundred acres during their prime years but they often lose them before the age of ten.
During mating season the males try to hold females when they wander through their territories for mating.
The Waterbuck graze on a wide variety of grasses which are high in protein. When green grass is scarce they feed on fruits, reeds and rushes. Also, they drink plenty of water in unusually large amounts.
Waterbucks are found widely in Sub-Saharan Africa. The first group, Defassa waterbuck, is found in western part of Gregory, starting from Ethiopia to Senegal and towards Zambia in the south. The second group known as Ellipsen waterbuck is mostly found in south eastern Africa which spreads to Gregory rift and Botswana.
They mostly stay near water bodies due to the huge demands of water in their body. They can also be found in grasslands as a wide variety of grasses are a part of their diet. Thus, they are mostly found in savanna and woodland habitats.
Waterbucks are threatened mainly by carnivores like hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, lions, hunting dogs and crocodiles.
Picture 2 – Waterbuck Image
The Waterbucks have few adaptive features which help them to survive in their own environment.
Since they spend most of their time in water, they have long stranded hairs which are made waterproof by the skin glands. The hair is covered by a thin tar like grease which carries turpentine like smell.
The flesh of the Waterbucks is tough, stringy, musty-scented and rank. Therefore, predators usually avoid eating them.
Breeding among Waterbucks is carried out throughout the year since food is always available for young ones. However, mating activities reach a peak during winter. Near the equator the breeding is more perennial.
Female waterbucks reach maturity at the age of three years. Males get matured at the age of six years. Males are highly polygamous and guard the herd of females from other males. The gestation period lasts over eight months. At the end of the gestation period a single offspring is born.
The young offspring, after birth, hides in the vegetation for the first two weeks. After this, the young one follows its mother into the herd. At the age of six months, the young one is weaned.
The life span of Waterbucks in wildlife is up to 18 years. If held in captive they live up to 30 years.
The Waterbuck is listed in the Least Concern by IUCN which means they are not yet endangered.
Here are a few interesting information about Waterbucks.
The young waterbucks have a five minutes suckling session during which they are cleaned by their mothers so that no odor is left on their body for predators to attack.
Female Waterbucks are more attached to lands, than males. It is in a male’s favor to have a larger territory in order to come in contact with females.
The Waterbuck, as its name suggests though, is not an aquatic animal at all.
The Waterbucks are seldom attacked by predators due to their foul smelling flesh. Their sweat glands produce an unpleasant odor which predators do not like.