Blue Wildebeest or Common or White-bearded Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)
The dark silver-grey body is marked with dark vertical bands on the front quarters. Blue wildebeest are characterised by a long black mane and a beard of hair hanging from the throat and neck. Both sexes grow short curved horns. In adult bulls the horns are heavily bossed. Bulls weigh 250 kg and measures 1.5 m at the shoulders. Cows are slightly smaller, measuring 1.4 m at the shoulder and with a mass of 180 kg.
Blue Wildebeest are seasonal breeders. Births of single calves per cow occur during summer after a gestation period of nine months. Calves can run with the herd within minutes after birth.
Seasonal migration was an optimised survival strategy which allowed the effective use of resources over larger areas and which minimised over-utilisation, both during wet and dry seasons. This is a gregarious herbivore, occurring in herds ranging from ten to a few thousand individuals. Bulls maintain territories when the herd is sedentary.
Where they are found
Distribution is concentrated to the north-eastern regions of South Africa. Not regarded as endangered, but mostly found in conservation areas. Also widely distributed in countries north of South Africa. Population numbers are drastically reduced due to fencing, which restricts traditional and instinctive migration.
There are five known subspecies of Blue Wildebeest in Africa:
C. t. taurinus – Blue wildebeest or bridled gnu
C. t. albojubatus – Eastern white-bearded wildebeest
C. t. cooksoni – Cookson's wildebeest
C. t. johnstoni – Nyassaland wildebeest
C. t. mearnsi – Western white-bearded wildebeest