The kudu (pronounced and sometimes spelled koodoo) is a large antelope living in central to southern Africa. This animal is made up to two species, the lesser kudu, and the greater kudu. The latter one is further made up of three subspecies: the southern greater kudu, the east African kudu, and the western greater kudu. The top map shows the range of the lesser kudu while the bottom map shows the range of the three subspecies of greater kudu. In the bottom map, green represents the southern greater kudu, yellow represents the east African greater kudu, and red shows the range of the western greater kudu. All of these different types of kudu have a gray to brown coat with vertical white stripes starting at the top of the back and extending about three quarters of the way down the sides of the animal. The number of these stripes depends on the species. Sometimes these animals will also have spots. Greater kudus, while not the heaviest antelopes, are one of the tallest, only surpassed by the eland.
Male vs. female
Males are larger than females and also have long throat hair that females lack. They also have a mane that extends from their head to their shoulders. The picture below shows a female greater kudu that you can compare to the male greater kudu up above.
Another difference between males and females is that males have horns and females do not. These horns start growing when the males are six months to a year old. At the age of two, the males will have horns with one full twist. Four years later, they will have their complete two and one half twists. These horns, if they were stretched out without any twists, would average four feet (1.22 m) and be at maximum six feet (1.8 m) long! That’s as long as an adult human is tall!
As with many mammals, male kudus in both species are larger than the females. Male greater kudus can grow up to eight feet four inches (2.5 m) long from their nose to base of their tail. Females are about four inches (10 cm) shorter. At their shoulder, these animals stand about five feet (1.5 m) tall. Their tail can grow to around 19 inches (48 cm) long and males weigh up to 690 pounds (315 kg). Females weigh up to 470 pounds (215 kg). Lesser kudus only grow to about five feet and nine inches (1.75 m) long from nose tip to the base of their tail. At the shoulder, they can stand up to 41 inches (105 cm) tall. Males weigh up to 231 pounds and females are up to 154 pounds (70 kg).
Habitat and social life
Kudus, like many species of antelope, live in the dry, brush-covered plains of central Africa. During the rainy season, they migrate to more wooded areas, and during the dry season, they find river beds to live by. Females and their young live together in small groups of up to six individuals. Males form bachelor herds that may include between two and ten individuals. While the ranges of two bachelor herds do not overlap, one bachelor group may share range with one or more groups of females and young.
Kudus eat a variety of vegetation including vines, fruit, flowers, and grass. Although these animals are not the tallest antelopes, their long neck enables them to reach food which is higher off the ground than the eland can reach.
Both the greater and lesser kudus have different methods of escaping from predators. Greater kudus are larger and especially the males with their large horns can be intimidating to predators. Lesser kudus, because they are smaller, are faster and more agile than most of their predators. They can jump up to 8.2 feet (2.5 m) vertically and 30 feet (9 m) horizontally. They can also reach speeds of up to 62 miles (100 km) per hour. Both species have strong legs and can break a wild dog or jackal’s neck with one kick! Some other common predators include lions and leopards. Cheetahs, pythons, eagles, and wild cats may sometimes prey on younger kudus.
Lesser vs. greater
There are more differences between the lesser and greater kudus than size and speed. Lesser kudus are nocturnal while greater kudus are active in the daytime. While greater kudus normally have around ten stripes, lesser kudus can have anywhere from four to fifteen. Male lesser kudus also do not have the shaggy throat hair that greater kudu males have, but they still have a mane. Lesser kudus, like the one in this picture, are also thought to be the most beautiful antelopes.
Kudus have a variety of noises they make for communication. Lesser kudus mainly make a barking sound to warn other lesser kudus of predators. Greater kudus do this and also make other noises such as grunting, gasping, clucking, and humming.
Mating and young
Male and female kudus normally only interact once a year for mating season which is normally at the end of the rainy season. Like many other animals, male kudus will fight for the right to mate. During these fights, each individual will attempt to lock his horns around the other animal’s body. Sometimes this fights end up fatal for both contestants when their horns get locked together preventing them from eating, drinking, and escaping predators. After a 240 day gestation period, one or sometimes two calves are born in January or February. For the first two weeks, they are hidden from predators, away from their mother’s group. After this, they stay with the rest of the group. Males will leave in between age one and two and will either join a bachelor herd or stay solitary for a while. Females will stay in the same group for life. Kudu young have only a one in four chance of surviving to age three due to disease and predators. If lucky enough to survive these first challenging years of life, these animals can live for up to 15 years in the wild or 20 in captivity.
Don’t forget to scroll down and leave your guess about what the next animal is.
- Animals of the world. Tom Jackson, ISBN: 978-1780191089
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Male greater kudu – L0k1m0nk33
- Female greater kudu – Hans Hillewaert
- Lesser kudu range – Ataileopard
- Greater kudu range – Ataileopard
- Lesser kudu – Lip Kee Yap
- Mystery animal – Soerfm