Wildebeest Definition | Characteristics & Facts


Wildebeest Definition

A wildebeest, also known as a gnu, is a large African antelope belonging to the genus Connochaetes. There are two species of wildebeest: the blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and the black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou).

Wildebeest General Characteristics & Facts


Wildebeests have a large, stocky build with a sloping back, a heavy head, and a distinctive hump between their shoulders. They have long, slender legs and a tufted tail. Both the blue wildebeest and the black wildebeest have curved horns, but the shape and size of the horns differ between the species.


Wildebeests are primarily found in the grasslands and savannas of eastern and southern Africa. They inhabit a wide range of habitats, including open plains, woodlands, and shrublands.

Social Behavior

Wildebeests are highly social animals and live in herds. These herds can vary in size, from a few individuals to thousands or even millions during migrations.

Migratory Behavior

The most famous aspect of wildebeest behavior is their annual migration. They undertake long-distance journeys in search of better grazing areas and water sources.


Wildebeests are herbivores and primarily graze on grasses. Their diet is composed mainly of short grasses, but they may also consume herbs, shrubs, and leaves when available.

Predator-Prey Relationship

Wildebeests are preyed upon by numerous predators, including lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and crocodiles. During the migration, river crossings present a particularly dangerous time when many wildebeests may fall victim to crocodile attacks.


Wildebeests typically give birth to a single calf, although twins can occur occasionally. Calves are born with their eyes open and are capable of running with the herd within a few minutes of birth.


Wildebeests are known for their vocalizations, which include grunts, snorts, and lowing sounds. These vocalizations are used for communication within the herd and can signal alarm or excitement.

Population and Conservation

Wildebeests are not considered endangered, but some regional populations face threats due to habitat loss and hunting. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting their habitats and ensuring the sustainability of their migrations.

Ecological Importance

Wildebeests play a crucial role in the ecosystem as grazers, helping to maintain the balance of grasslands and influencing plant growth and distribution. Their migrations also disperse seeds and contribute to nutrient cycling in the environment.

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Physical Characteristics Wildebeest

  1. Size:  On average, males stand about 4.6 to 5 feet (1.4 to 1.5 meters) tall at the shoulder, and their body length ranges from 6.6 to 9.8 feet (2 to 3 meters). Females are slightly smaller, standing around 4 to 4.6 feet (1.2 to 1.4 meters) tall at the shoulder.
  2. Weight: Adult male wildebeests can weigh between 330 to 600 kg (730 to 1,320 pounds), while adult females weigh slightly less, ranging from 260 to 450 kg (570 to 990 pounds).
  3. Coloration: The coloration of wildebeests varies between species. Blue wildebeests (Connochaetes taurinus) have a bluish-gray coat with darker patches on the shoulders, neck, and face. Black wildebeests (Connochaetes gnou) have a dark brown to black coat.
  4. Mane: Wildebeests have a long, dark mane that runs from their neck down to their shoulders. The mane is more prominent in males than in females.
  5. Head: Wildebeests have a large, angular head with a flat, wide muzzle. Their face is characterized by a dark coloration around the eyes and a white stripe between the eyes.
  6. Horns: Both male and female wildebeests have curved, S-shaped horns. The horns of males are larger and more robust than those of females. In the blue wildebeest, the horns sweep backward and then curve upward, while in the black wildebeest, the horns curve forward and then upward.
  7. Tail: Wildebeests have a long, tufted tail that ends with a black tassel.
  8. Build: Wildebeests have a robust and muscular build, well-adapted for endurance and agility during migrations and evading predators.
  9. Eyesight: Wildebeests have good eyesight, which helps them detect predators from a distance.
  10. Sense of Hearing and Smell: They also have acute hearing and a keen sense of smell, allowing them to detect potential dangers in their environment.

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Scientific Classification of Wildebeest

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Subfamily: Alcelaphinae

Genus: Connochaetes

Key Locations of Wildebeest

  • Serengeti National Park (Tanzania)
  • Maasai Mara Reserve (Kenya)
  • Kruger National Park (South Africa)
  • Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area (Tanzania)
  • Tarangire National Park (Tanzania)
  • Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe)
  • Okavango Delta (Botswana)
  • Etosha National Park (Namibia)
  • Liuwa Plain National Park (Zambia)
  • Kafue National Park (Zambia)

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FAQs Wildebeest

What does Wildebeest eat?

Wildebeests are herbivores, which means they primarily eat plant-based foods. Their diet mainly consists of various types of grasses, which are abundant in their natural habitats of savannas and grasslands. T

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