Tag Archives: Connochaetes taurinus

Black Wildebeest – The Gnu that’s not the Blue!

Tucked away in a far corner of South Africa, near the bustling town of Mafikeng, is a little game reserve called Botsalano.  Although it isn’t one of the more famous game reserves in the country, it definitely deserves a mention because it is actually full of pleasant surprises.  Not only are the bush campsites there quite magnificent, but we saw an abundance of game that included animals not commonly found elsewhere.

Black wildebeest Botsalano Game Reserve

I wrote a while back about seeing Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and at that time we didn’t have any decent photos of the Black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) which is a similar looking gnu, but distinguishable by its white tail, smaller build and horns that curve forwards.  Well, our stay at Botsalano rewarded us with wonderful sightings of these animals and we came away with many pictures to add to our collection.  Black wildebeest are typically only found in small areas in South Africa, so it was a treat to see so many of them in one place.

Black wildebeest Botsalano Game Reserve

The Black wildebeest is not stripy like its Blue relative.  Adults are dark brown, whilst calves are a much lighter colour.  Their white tails make them easy to identify, as do their sloping down backs, which are typical of the gnu’s.   They sound similar too, as they also converse with snorts and grunts that sound like the word “gnu”.

A small herd passing by

The open grassland in Botsalano suits them perfectly and there is sufficient water there for their needs.  Their diet consists mostly of grass and dry bush.   We saw them in typical herds of between five and fifty.  These herds usually consist of males, females and young ones, but sometimes male-only herds are formed as well.  Males are territorial and during the breeding season they can be quite aggressive protecting their females and young.

Black wildebeest near the waterhole

Because they are only found in isolated areas, Black wildebeest don’t typically have any enemies and can expect to live for about twenty years.  Unfortunately once they are sold to farmers or relocated to small reserves out of their natural areas, they can fall prey to the same predators that hunt the Blue wildebeest, namely lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyaenas.

Black wildebeest favour open grassland


The Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)

Last week Namibia had a public holiday, so Rob and I decided to visit the Daan Viljoen Resort which is about 30 kms from Windhoek.  We were gratified to see how green everything was after the recent rains in the area and the little dam in the nature reserve had enough water to attract a large herd of Eland and a few Blue Wildebeest.  One is always assured of seeing Blue Wildebeest at the reserves in Namibia as they favour open bushveld with short grass.

Blue Wildebeest

The Blue Wildebeest (also known as a Brindled Gnu) differs from the Black Wildebeest in both distribution and appearance.  The Black Wildebeest is only found in a small area in South Africa and is easily distinguishable by its white tail (giving it the alternative name of White-tailed Gnu). The Blues can be blue-grey or grey-brown in colour and they have magnificent manes, throat hairs and beards.

Handsome profile!

They have vertical bands of dark brown hair on their bodies, which makes them look wrinkled.

We saw a couple of Blue Wildebeest with young ones.  Their breeding season is between November and February and they usually only have one calf, born after a gestation period of about eight and a half months.

Mother and baby

The babies can stand up within seven minutes of being born and are able to move with the herd within hours.  They need to be able to do this to protect themselves from predators.  The little ones are much lighter in colour than their parents, turning darker about nine weeks after birth.

A lone baby wildebeest

The males are quite territorial, marking out their boundaries with heaps of dung, secretions from glands and by pawing the ground.  They show their aggression by snorting loudly.  Blue Wildebeest have to be on the look out for lions, cheetah, hyenas and wild dogs.

Part of a procession at Kgalagadi

On hot days in game reserves it is typical to see groups of Wildebeest lying lazily under shady trees as they prefer to graze when the temperature drops and who can blame them for that!  They tend to move seasonally in search of better grazing, as can be seen with the huge migrational herds of the Serengeti.

Catching some shade