Tsessebe Bulls have a mass of 140 Kg and measure 1.2 m at the shoulders, and are slightly larger than cows which weigh approximately 120 Kg. Both sexes grow horns, but those on bulls are heavier. When viewed from the front the horns appear typical 'halfmoon' shaped. It has a dark face with purple blotches on the shoulders, whereas the withers and upper body are reddish-brown.


TsessebeĀ are grazers which utilise a wide range of grass species. They select the leaf over the stems. They prefer fresh growth, andĀ are attracted to burnt areas.


Seasonal breeders, which in South Africa give birth during September / October to single calves, after a gestation period of seven months. The rut takes place during mid-February and continues through to March. During the mating season elaborate displays by the bulls form part of the mating ritual.


Tsessebe are social animals and their basic group structure consists of small breeding groups, each comprising of six to ten cows with their offspring. Bachelor groups and territorial bull herds may sometimes number up to 30 strong. This is especially noticeable near water and favourable gazing.

Breeding herds consisting of cows are not restricted to a specific territory. In areas where tsessebe occur in higher densities, bulls establish typical 'lek' system territories. Young bulls form bachelor groups at the age of one year as they are pushed out of herds.

Where Tsessebe Are Found

Tsessebe belong to the same family as the Wildebeest and the Hartebeest, all of whom are characterised by an ungainly appearance as a result of their shoulders being higher than the withers. Only one of the several subspecies that are recognized, occur in the Subregion.

In South Africa the tsessebe are confined to northern savannah woodlands. They are mostly confined to the Kruger National Park and some provincial game reserves. They have also been re-introduced to some private game farms.

©Nigel Dennis

Vital Statistics

Latin Name
Damaliscus Lunatus
Weight (Female)
126 kg
Weight (Male)
140 kg
Length (Female)
170 cm
Length (Male)
170 cm
Gestation Period
10 months
No of Young
1 calf
Sexual Maturity
26 - 40 months
Birth Weight
11 kg
Running Speed
60 km/h
35 cm (record - 47 cm)v
A single young is born from September - November after a gestation period of +/- 8 months.

Spoor Description

In patrolling their territories, territorial males maintain a steady gait and defecate at regular intervals. Both sexes mark their territories with the preorbital glands, but the territorial males are more active in doing so. Tsessebe also rub the sides of their faces on the ground, usually on a termite mound or on a sandy patch, dropping to their knees to do so.

Both sexes horn the ground, especially after rain. The animal has well developed interdigital glands on the front feet, and territorial males paw and scrape the ground as a means of territorial marking.

Kruger National Park - South African Safari