© Nigel Dennis


Tsessebe (Damaliscus lunatus)






The tsessebe measures about 170 cm in length and 1.2 m at the shoulder, with bulls weighing approximately 140 kg and females 126 kg. Both sexes carry horns of 35 cm in length, the bulls’ being heavier than the cows’.
The horns form a half-moon shape from the front. The tsessebe is reddish-brown in colour on the upper body and withers and has a dark face with purplish splotches on the shoulders. Tsessebe can run at a speed of 60 km/h.

Tsessebe Diet

This animal is a grazer and feeds on a variety of grasses, choosing to eat the leaf rather than the stem. They are attracted to burnt areas for its fresh growth.

Tsessebe Breeding

After a gestation period of seven months, a single calf is born weighing 11 kg. Being seasonal breeders, births occur during the months of September and October in South Africa. The rut takes place from mid-February to March, a time during which bulls perform displays as a part of the tsessebe mating ritual.

Tsessebe Behaviour

Tsessebe are gregarious animals, living in small breeding groups of 6-10 cows and their young. Such breeding groups are not limited to a certain territory. Groups of territorial bulls and bachelor bulls can have up to 30 members. Groups of such size can be found close to water or good grazing. At the age of a year, young bulls are expelled from the herds to form bachelor groups.
In areas where a great number of tsessebe are found bulls engage in the "lek" territory system, which involves two or more males performing displays of courtship and the female choosing a partner with which to mate. Territorial males guard their areas of land by walking at a steady pace and defecating regularly.
Bulls and cows mark their territory by means of their preorbital glands, dropping their knees and rubbing their faces on a sandy patch or termite mound. This occurs particularly after the rain, although males mark territory more actively than females.

Where They Are Found

Tsessebe can be found in South Africa in the northern savanna woodlands, yet most populate the Kruger National Park and a few provincial game reserves. They have also been reintroduced on some privately owned game farms.
The tsessebe belongs to the same family as the hartebeest and the wildebeest, all of which are identified by their awkward appearance – their shoulders being higher than their withers.

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
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Running Speed: 60 km/h
Horns: 35 cm (record - 47 cm)
Breeding: A single young is born from September - November after a gestation period of +/- 8 months.

Spoor Description

Having highly developed interdigital glands on their forefeet, territorial males mark their boundaries by pawing and scraping the ground.