- General information
- Blue wildebeest: description of appearance
- What do they eat?
- The difficult temper of antelopes
Blue wildebeest are perhaps the most famous representatives of African antelopes. These are large ungulate mammals, combining grace and strength at the same time. They have a violent temper and unpredictable behavior. What do blue wildebeest look like? You will find photos and descriptions of these unusual animals in our article.
Gnu is a genus of ruminant ungulates that belong to the subfamily of antelopes. Their horns are a bone process of the skull, on which a hollow horn sheath is “put on” from above. Due to this feature, antelopes, along with buffaloes, gazelles, goats and rams, are classified as bovids.
The wildebeest genus includes only two species: white-tailed and blue, the genetic branches of which diverged a million years ago. Since then, blue antelopes have remained predominantly within their historical range and have retained many similarities with their ancient ancestors. The white-tailed species spread further south. The development of new biotopes required great metamorphoses from him, so his differences from his ancestors are muchmore noticeable.
The species differ among themselves in habitats, size, color and shape of horns. Their closest relatives are topi antelopes, chirols, white-faced hartebeests and blesbucks.
Blue wildebeest: description of appearance
Gnu are large animals with high slender legs and a powerful muscular body. They have a rather peculiar appearance, due to which they are classified as a subfamily of cow antelope. They have a large, heavy head with a narrow and elongated facial region. The horns are thick and rounded, with ends pointing towards each other. In the region of the forelimbs on the back of the animal there is a small hump, which can be clearly seen in the photo.
The blue wildebeest is larger than the white-tailed wildebeest. Its growth reaches from 1.20 to 1.50 meters, and the length of the body is about 2 meters. The antelope weighs 150-275 kilograms. Males are heavier and stronger than females and have thicker horns.
From the neck to the middle of the back stretches a long, but not too thick black mane. There is also a stripe of wool on the throat. A characteristic feature of the blue wildebeest is a thick black tail 60 to 100 centimeters long. Animals are painted in a bluish-gray hue, which is why they got their name. From the neck to the ribs, there are vertical dark brown stripes in the coloring. Antelopes are born brown and mature at two months of age.
Blue wildebeest is one of the most numerous species of antelopes on the African continent. Only in the Serengeti park there are about 300 thousand of them.They live in various reserves and reserves, but are widely found outside them, for which they received the status of animals "causing the least concern".
The blue wildebeest is common in South and East Africa. It is typical for Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland, South Africa. The lower boundary of its range is the Orange River, the upper - Mount Kenya and Lake Victoria.
Antelope lives in moderately humid areas among savannahs, thorny bushes and light forests. It can graze both low grassy plains and hilly uplands covered with meadows.
What do they eat?
Blue wildebeest are ruminant herbivores, very picky in their choice of food. They eat a limited list of foods. They are suitable crops in sunny short grass glades growing on alkaline or volcanic soils. Food takes place both during the day and at night. When grass is scarce, animals turn to shrubs and trees.
Antelopes drink 9 to 12 liters of water a day. Despite this, they are also found in the Kalahari Desert, where they get water from gourds saturated with moisture from plant roots.
The life of the blue wildebeest is subject to seasonal climate changes. Twice a year, animals make long migrations, following the showers. Moving north, they visit grasslands and savannahs that have only been watered by rains, and then begin to return back. In some places, for example, in the Ngorongoro Crater region in Tanzania, they do not migrate far,but move from lowlands to highlands.
Blue wildebeest do not live alone. They gather in small groups, consisting separately of males and females with cubs. During the migration period, they unite in large herds, but even in them they are usually kept in groups. Thanks to this herd of wildebeest sometimes stretches for tens of kilometers.
Like many other ungulates, they slowly move from place to place, lie on the ground for a long time, chew grass and often play. Their breeding season coincides with the rainy season and begins in April. At this time, males become strictly territorial. They choose a site with a diameter of about 100 meters, mark it with the secret of the eye glands and vehemently guard it from rivals. They enter the battle with their front legs on their knees.
A calf is born fully formed and can walk immediately. This skill is very important, as the herd is constantly moving, and there are a huge number of dangers around. For the first 8 months, the cub follows its mother everywhere, feeding on her milk. At the age of two and a half years, they are already able to have their own offspring.
The difficult temper of antelopes
Blue wildebeest are very unpredictable. Either they peacefully graze among the grasses, or they abruptly take off and gallop across the savannahs. They are characterized by irascibility and aggressiveness. Females let only their own into groups, and an attempt by a new antelope to enter their "company" ends in a fight and persecution.
They have a lotnatural enemies, meeting with which ends in different ways. The most powerful and dangerous for them are lions and crocodiles. A large number of antelopes die precisely at the crossings, so animals always approach the water with caution and do not dare to go there. Frightened wildebeest scatter in all directions, making high jumps. But they don't always run away. During the day, they may well fight back a hyena, leopard or cheetah, starting to butt their horns and kick with powerful legs.
Sometimes antelopes are the first to attack other animals, frightening and bewildering even elephants. Sometimes they start doing a "wild dance" for no reason, kicking, jumping and running in circles, stopping the rampage after just a few minutes. One can only guess about the reasons and motives for such behavior.