Red Hartebeest

© Nigel Dennis


Red Hartebeest [Alcelaphus caama]


The Red Hartebeest is a large, reddish-fawn antelope with sloping back and long narrow face. Both sexes have heavily ringed horns. Of the 12 subspecies described in Africa, the Red Hartebeest is the only one which occurs in South Africa.

Due to its re-introduction onto game farms and nature reserves, it has a wider distribution today. Adult bulls weigh 150 kg and measure 1.3 m at the shoulders, while cows only weigh 120 kg.

©Shem Compion


Red Hartebeest is predominantly a grazing species which prefers medium-height grass stands, and relishes fresh re-growth after veldt fires or rain.


Following a gestation period of eight months, single calves are normally born before summer rains. For a short period after being born, calves are hidden in dense vegetation before joining the herd.
©Shem Compion


Territorial bulls often present themselves on prominent mounds and mark their territories with dung piles. The Red Hartebeest is swift on foot and gregarious, occurring in herds of up to 30. To see an unusual encounter of a Red Hartebeest with a cyclist.

Where they are found

Preferred habitat is the dry, arid regions of Namibia, the Kalahari, southern Botswana, and north-western South Africa.

Field Notes

The name Hartebeest was thought to refer to the heart shaped curve of the horns but the accepted theory now is that it comes from the Dutch word hert which means deer in Dutch and beest meaning beast. The term hartebeest was used by the early Boers who thought the animals looked like a deer. Hartebeest is the Afrikaans for hertebeest.
©Shem Compion
Kruger National Park - South African Safari