Few will disagree that when it comes to the best looking antelope in the Kruger National Park, it has to be the greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) with its long, slender face and strong and spirally horns.
Luckily, kudu are also fairly widespread and can be spotted often on a Kruger safari, so being able to snap a few photos of this handsome animal on your next game drive is more than likely.
These tall animals are easy to distinguish. A kudu can grow to about 1.5m with males weighing between 190 and 270 kgs and females, or cows, weighing between 120 and 210 kgs. If not for their stature and size, bulls (male kudu) can also be recognised by their incredibly-long and beautiful horns.
A kudu’s horn can have two to three full graceful twists and its said that it can grow to about 1.8 metres! Not only do these horns make them look amazing, bulls also use them to, occasionally, fight for and establish dominance with other males. However, this definitely isn’t a regular occurrence as kudu are quite peaceful and passive in most cases.
A kudu’s horns would also only start to grow when a bull reaches somewhere between 6 and 12 months of age.
In terms of their appearance, males and females (who don’t have horns) have white stripes across their bodies as well as a line of white hair on the face, just between the eyes. Add to this their big radar-like ears and a fringe of hair under their chins and you can definitely see why they're easy to discern.
Despite this though, a kudu’s coat actually helps to camouflage it quite nicely in the bush, and their highly-alert nature means that they’ll run off at the first sign of trouble or if they sense any movement around them.
Having said this, kudu have a powerful kick and aren’t the easiest to take down. They are also built for leaping and despite their size, are agile and can leap to heights of around 3 metres when trying to clear obstacles or even fences.
However, they aren’t able to run very fast so they often hide in the bush, in the hopes that, when running away from a predator, the predator might give up and leave.
Due to the fact that kudu can live in a wide range of habitats, including riverine areas, bush thickets and wooded savannah areas, they are browsers and tend to feed on leaves, shrubs, plants, fruit and seed pods.
Kudu are seasonal breeders and the gestation period for them is usually 7 to 9 months. In the end, between 1 and 2 calves are born, although the latter is rare.
Female kudus usually live in herds of between 3 and 20 cows, but will leave the herd when it’s time to give birth. After giving birth, a cow would return to the herd, leaving the young calf hidden in the bush until it is about four to five weeks old.
During this time, she will go back and forth between the herd and the calf, so that she can suckle it.
At about five months, the calf will join its mother in the herd. Calves grow quite rapidly after this and will eventually become independent of their mothers.
As for male kudu, they either live separately in bachelor herds or on their own.
As mentioned earlier, kudu are incredibly alert and nervous animals so approaching them might not prove to be that easy - at the first sign of movement, they’ll probably run off into the bush.
Having said this, in order to make the most of your Kruger safari, it’s best to get as close and as you can and then sit and wait. Once they’re sure you pose no threat, kudu may just go on doing what they were doing before you got there. If you’re lucky, they may move closer to you or past you at the very least, and you’ll get to see those epic horns up close!
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