Bio Facts: Kudu, Greater
East, Central and South Africa
Woodlands, especially in hilly, broken ground
Males – HBL 74-98 in.; TL 14.5-19 in.; HL 39-70 in.; wt 420-700 lbs. Females – slightly smaller; wt 265-475 lbs. Coat: short, blue-gray to reddish brown; 6-10 vertical white body stripes; white chevron between eyes; up to three white cheek spots; dorsal crest extended by mane along whole body; fringe of hairs from chin to base of neck in males; females and young redder than males. Newborn weighs approximately 35 lbs.
Up to 20 years in captivity
Well-nourished females may reach sexual maturity early at 2 years of age, but more commonly it is reached at 3 years of age. Ma
In the wild, they eat leaves, shoots, fruits and flowers. In the Zoo, they are fed hay and grain.
The greater kudu feeds opportunistically off a wide range of food types. They can pick out scanty, high-quality foods from much poorer surrounding vegetation. This has led to them being described as “foliage gleaners.” They may also eat fruits, seedpods, flowers, leaves, bark and tubers.
Because of their food preferences and lack of explosive speed, greater kudu tend to avoid open arid regions, sticking mainly to open woodland areas and grasslands where cover is more abundant.
Herds are typically not territorial. Groups do have well defined home ranges that vary in size between 1.5 to 4.5 square miles and overlap.
Greater kudus are seasonal breeders. Females, after a gestation period of 7 to 9 months, usually bear a single calf in the middle of or towards the end of the rainy season (January through March). To avoid predators, the newborn calf will lie concealed in dense undergrowth or tall grass away from the herd for up to a month, being visited by its mother several times a day to nurse. When the calf joins the herd, often all the new calves will form what is known as a “nursery group.” They will have little or nothing to do with the adults except their own mothers. Female calves tend to stay with their mothers more than males do, so that most female groups of greater kudu usually consist of 10 to 15 related females. Male calves usually leave their birth group either as soon as they are weaned or before they reach sexual maturity. They may join with other males and form groups of 2-30, depending on area, males of mixed ages. These coalitions have been referred to as “men’s clubs.” Older males tend to be more solitary.
Regardless of the season, one or more males may accompany female groups. This is often a loose association and several different males may accompany female groups over a matter of days. During the conception peak, however, one male may, if not driven off, accompany a female for several days. The most dominant bull around when cows come into heat therefore probably fathers calves.
Bull kudus, more than any other horned animal, interlock their horns during battle and become so entangled that neither one can free itself. Both perish. Serious fights are very rare amongst older bulls.
Bulls exhibit a behavior called the intimidation behavior. He plants himself broadside to the object of challenge, carries his head somewhat lower and moves hindlegs forward under his body so that his back arches. The challenger runs in an arc. The defender keeps turning so that the broadside of his body is kept toward the challenger. Eventually the challenger slips past.
Kudus are highly mobile and have large home ranges. They move up and down hillsides and vary their use of areas around the hills to take advantage of seasonal changes in the vegetation that they consume.
Greater kudu have sharp senses; their enlarged ears suggest that sound is particularly important, but they vocalize rarely.
Bulls have small scent glands in their cheeks. Sometimes they rub their cheeks, leaving behind their scent, on trees or along the backs of females they are driving. This appears to be the only conspicuous marking done by this species.
When kudus flee an area, they raise their tails to show the white underside.
The greater kudu belongs to the Tribe Strepciserotini in the Subfamily Bovinae. All species in this tribe are restricted to Africa. They are medium to large in body size, more slenderly built than other species in Bovini, and have long necks and deep bodies. Adult males are larger than females, and males are marked differently than females. Horns in males only in most species within the tribe. There are no distinct facial or foot glands.
In Swahili, the greater kudu is called tandala mkubwa.
Various ranching experiments with kudus suggest that they are particularly vulnerable to heavy tick infestations and to tick borne diseases. They may also act as a reservoir of sleeping sickness in tsetse fly infested areas.
The greater kudu is the second largest antelope in the world. The largest one is the eland.
It drinks in the dry season but can survive in waterless regions.
The greater kudu makes one of the loudest noises made by any other antelope. Males “grunt” loudly during the rut and when fighting. During courtship, males whine. Mothers summon hidden calves with a smacking sound. And, calves utter a u-u-u distress call.
There are three subspecies: the Southern greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros strepsiceros), the East African greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros bea) and the Western greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros cottoni).
Prized for their horns and meat, one of the greater kudu’s main threats is hunting. Human encroachment and habitat destruction are also a problem. And because they damage crops in agricultural areas, they are hunted as nuisances.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
The first ones arrived here in October 1976. They have successfully bred here.