Waterbuck {Kobus ellipsiprymnus}

The Waterbuck is known for its trademark white ring around the hindquarters

South Africa WildlifeThe Waterbuck {Kobus ellipsiprymnus}

The waterbuck is the largest of the kob antelopes. It is known for its trademark white ring around the hindquarters which they use as a 'follow me' sign. If one of the group spots a predator and runs, the rest will follow to avoid becoming prey.

Only the males have horns which are handsome, long and prominently ringed, sweeping backwards and up. The eyes and nose of the Waterbuck have beautiful white markings and it has a noticeable white collar under the throat line.

Waterbuck have a brownish–grey shaggy coat with a lot of hair around their necks. This neck hair is hollow which allows for extra buoyancy when swimming, helping them to keep their heads above water (reference: Sabi Sabi Game Reserve).

Waterbuck give off a strong scent that can be smelt even by humans, which is believed to deter certain predators.

Quick Facts


Male Waterbuck stand up to 127cm high at the shoulder
Females stand up to 120cm high at the shoulder.


Males weigh 198 - 260 kgs.
Females weigh 160 - 210 kgs.


Waterbuck inhabit savannah grasslands and riverine forests areas, near permanent freshwater, south of the Sahara. Despite their name, they do not spend much time in water other than to hide from and avoid predators. They are however, dependant on a constant water source as they need to drink daily so are never far from rivers or dams.


In South Africa they are common in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces and also found in northern reaches of KwaZulu Natal. They have been re-introduced to the St Lucia area and Ithala Game Reserve and can also be found in private game reserves in the Eastern Cape.

Diet - Herbivores

Mainly grazers, Waterbuck feed on coarse grasses not favoured by other grazers as well as browsing leaves from certain trees and bushes. They feed in the mornings and at night and rest and ruminate the rest of the time.


A gregarious animal, female waterbuck congregate in herds of as few as two females to larger herds of 60. Males have territories of up to 1km˛ (near permanent water) which they occupy as dominant males for up to 10 years when they may be ousted by a younger dominant male. Their horns are then used, with sometimes lethal results, when males fight one another over the territory.


A single calf is born at any time throughout the year. Breeding may be seasonal in some areas.


9.3 months

Life Expectancy

Up to 12 years in the wild, 18 years in captivity.


Waterbuck have many predators including hyenas, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, crocodiles, humans.


Waterbuck Conservation Status

  • Least Threatened

South Africa's Big Five

Did you know?

Male Waterbuck are 25% larger than the females.

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