The waterbuck is a large, longhaired antelope. Bulls have a shoulder height of up to 1.4m and can weigh up to 260kg, generally 25% larger than the female waterbuck. They have a brown coat that emits a foul smelling, greasy secretion, which is thought to be for waterproofing purposes and for deterring predators.
Their eyes and nose have patches of white around them and they have a white collar around their neck. Their large rounded ears help distinguish them between other antelopes. The males are the only ones with horns, which are spiralled and can grow up to 40 inches long.
Waterbuck like to live in areas where they are close to the water in savannah grasslands, forests and woodlands which not only provide water, but places to hide from predators. They are preyed upon by hyenas, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hunting dogs and crocodiles. They are more water-dependent than domestic cattle and must remain close to a water source at all times. They graze coarse grass, which other animas seldom eat.
Males often compete for and protect their territories with other threatening males. Otherwise they are generally a quiet, inactive animal. A male marks his territory with his presence and smell, and not with their dung or urine like other animals. He will try and keep females that come into his area, but the females are often part of a 25-group herd and often wonder in and out of male territories. They do not tend to migrate large distances so their territories are held mostly all year around.
There is no real breeding time for the waterbuck; calves are generally born throughout the year. The mother will hide her young for around three weeks from predators and she will come to the calf three to four times a day for it to suckle, where she will also then clean the calf to hide any odours that predators might pick up on. The calves are nursed for up to eight months, where the males will then begin to wander off and form all male groups near the territories and the females will stay in their mother’s group.