When I went to a zoo one time I saw a greater kudu. It was a female, so she didn’t have the impressive horns that the males do, but she was still one of the most beautiful animals I’ve ever seen. There’s just something wonderful about the kudu’s long graceful body that I really like.
Kudus are antelope found in south and east Africa, although they are mainly concentrated in the south. There are two species of kudu: the greater and lesser kudu. I’m going to focus on the greater kudu because being greater is more interesting. Kudus will live anywhere where there is decent brush cover for them to hide in, and can even live in settled parts of Africa.
As the name implies, greater kudus are pretty big. They stand about one and a half meters at the shoulder, and are one of the tallest antelopes. They can be reddish brown or blue grey, and have thin white strips on its back. Males look fairly different from females, having a thick beautiful beard, giant spiralling horns, and a coat that darkens with age. Both sexes are beautiful animals. Male horns start growing between 6-12 months of age, and the number of spirals can be a rough indicator of age. Two and a half twists are only achieved at six years of age, and older animals can acquire three twists.
Kudus breed during the rainy season, with females being able to mate at three years and males at five. The breeding season is the only time males and females interact – the rest of the year kudus live in separate herds. Females live in herds of 1-3 ladies and their progeny, while males frolic in bachelor herds of up to ten animals. Females give birth when the grass is tall, so their calves have some protection from predators. Calves stay hidden in the grass until two weeks of age, at which point they join the herd.
Unfortunately for the kudu, those pretty horns are highly valued by humans, and poaching is common. As well, kudu meat is apparently very tasty, and they are sometimes hunted for this reason. Although they are currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, their eastern range is fragmented and small, thanks to hunting and habitat destruction. Still, the news isn’t all bad. In the south their numbers have recovered quite well, so hopefully the kudu will stick around for a long time.