Defassa Waterbuck Defassa Waterbuck
Defassa Waterbuck

Scientific Classification

Common Name
defassa waterbuck
Genus Species
Kobus (native African name) ellipsiprymnus defassa; defassa represents sub-species

Fast Facts

The defassa waterbuck is a large, robust animal with long, shaggy hair and a brown-gray coat that emits an oily secretion from its sweat glands, which acts as a water repellent. It also has large, rounded ears and white patches above the eyes, and around the nose and mouth and throat. The common waterbuck has a conspicuous white ring encircling a dark rump, while the defassa has wide white patches on either side of the rump.
Male:  Males are generally about 25% larger than the females. Only males have horns, prominently ringed and as long as 100 cm (40 in.). The horns are widely spaced and curve gracefully back and up.
Male:  Shoulder height of males about 125 cm (4.2 ft.)
148.5 to 225 kg (330 to 500 lbs.)
Includes coarse grasses seldom eaten by other grazing animals and occasionally browse leaves from certain trees and bushes
Gestation lasts approximately 280 days
Sexual Maturity
2.5 to 3 years
Life Span
Up to 18 years
South of the Sahara
Inhabits areas close to water in savanna grasslands, gallery forests and riverine woodlands.
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Despite its name, the waterbuck is not actually aquatic. Rather, they are frequently found in the vicinity of rivers and lakes. They will often venture into the water to escape predators.
  2. Within all of the species in this genus, the waterbuck spends the least amount of time in wet areas, often venturing out into woodlands.
  3. These antelope are sedentary animals. Waterbucks do not migrate or move great distances, so territories are usually held year round. Like some other antelopes, the male does not mark his territory with dung or urine; his presence and smell are sufficient.
  4. When the defessa and common waterbucks have bordering ranges they often interbreed; as a result, some scientists consider the two groups as a single species instead of two separate species was they are referred to by others researchers.
  5. At 7 to 9 months, males are driven from their maternal family and join up with a bachelor herd. These groups have a distinct social hierarchy based on size and strength, and contests are frequent. Around 6 to 7 years, males become territorial, defending them against mature rivals with posturing and fights. These territories are maintained throughout the year, but a male is generally overthrown before he reaches 10 years of age.

Ecology and Conservation

Due to their dependency on the reed beds and shrub growth for foraging in wetland habitats, water development projects such as damming and rerouting water for hydroelectric power in some regions pose a possible threat to waterbuck. 

Their grassland habitat is also being reduced due to habitat destruction for agricultural development. 

Most waterbuck species have experienced declining numbers due to uncontrolled hunting. 

Antelope are important to their habitats as grazers and browsers. They are also important as prey for carnivores such as lions, leopards, wild dogs, and spotted hyena.


Nowak, R. M. Walker's Mammals of the World Fifth Ed.. Vol. II, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Parker, S.P. Grzimek's Encyclopedia: Mammals. Vol. 5, New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 1990.

Spinage, C.A. The Natural History of Antelope. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1986.

African Wildlife Foundation.