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Physical Characteristics

  • Head and body length: 130-160 cm (males), 120-140 cm (females)
  • Shoulder height: 80-105 cm (males), 65-95 cm (females)
  • Tail length: 18-30 cm
  • Adult weight: 60-95 kg (males), 50-85 kg (females)

The coat of the southern reedbuck is fawn or buff in color, with some grizzling of gray and brown. The undersides are white, including the bushy lower surface of the tail. All four legs have a dark stripe on their lower fronts. At the base of the pointed ears lies a gland that, when active, appears as a black circle of bare skin. Aside from this, there are no distinctive facial markings, although the lips, bottom of the jaw, and area around the eyes are often pale or white. Only males grow horns, which have a distinctive forward curving arc from the ridged bases to the smooth tips. Forming a ”V” when viewed from the front, the horns typically grow 25-45 cm long.

Similar species

The southern reedbuck is larger than both the mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula) and the bohor reedbuck (Redunca redunca) . The horns of males are much longer than the other two reedbucks, and lack the distinctive hooked tips of the bohor reedbuck.

Reproduction and Development

  • Gestation period: 233 days
  • Litter size: 1
  • Weaning: Unknown; by one year
  • Sexual maturity: Females as early as 1 year, males probably around 18 months
  • Life span: Approximately 16 years in captivity

Breeding occurs throughout the year, but in South Africa the majority of births occur in the summer and fall months (November to April, depending on the region). During courtship, a male will follow a receptive female, who will pause occasionally to allow contact. However, laufschlag, or a ritualized foreleg kick seen in other reedbucks, is not performed. An infant reedbuck will spend its first six weeks (at least) hidden in dense grasses, where it is visited by its mother for nursing a few times daily. By three months, the youngster regularly moves with its mother, and by one year it is independent.

Ecology and Behavior

Southern reedbucks are active both day and night, but especially around dawn and dusk; periods of inactivity (resting and rumination) typically take place in dense cover. Because this species prefers tall grass habitats with low visibility, whistling vocalizations and scent trails are a principal form of social communication. Population densities are generally low (0.2 reedbuck per km2), but they may exceed 35 per km2 in pockets of high-quality habitat. Southern reedbucks inhabit year-round home ranges, the average size of which varies regionally from 0.22 to 0.54 km2. Males are territorial throughout the year, defending resources such as food, water, and cover from other males in order to attract females. However, when these resources are plentiful or when populations are concentrated around water sources in the dry season, males may occupy smaller overlapping home ranges; access to females is determined by a dominance hierarchy.

  • Family group: Typically solitary, in pairs, or in small loose groups. During the dry season, reedbucks will congregate around water sources, where temporary aggregations of as many as twenty individuals may form
  • Diet: Grasses
  • Main Predators: Most large carnivores found in the same range, including lion, leopard, spotted hyena, African wild dog, and Nile crocodile

Habitat and Distribution

Savannas with tall grasses are the preferred habitat, but during the dry season woodlands and reedbeds with year-round water are frequently used. This species is found throughout much of southern Africa; the approximate range is depicted in the map below.

Conservation Status

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern (2008)
  • CITES Listing: Not listed (2011)
  • Threats: Overhunting and habitat loss

The estimated total population is 73,000 animals. This species is well-represented in protected areas and found widely across its historic range, but habitat fragmentation poses an ever-increasing threat.


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