Blue Wildebeest

Blue Wildebeest

Common wildebeest, Brindled gnu

Connochaetes taurinus
Population size
Life Span
20-24.3 yrs
80 km/h
260-290 kg
115-145 cm
170-240 cm

The Blue wildebeest is an easily recognized species of antelope with highly located shoulders and horns, resembling these of a cow. This animal resembles a broad and elongated muzzle. Blue wildebeest are known to gather in huge migratory herds. These antelope are so called due to the silvery-blue sheen of their fur, which actually varies from greyish to brown. The front feet of the animal exhibit black stripes, due to which it is nicknamed the 'brindled gnu'. The front part of its face, the mane as well as the long tail display black coloration. Their beards are long and colored in either black or white, depending on subspecies. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism with males, being noticeably bigger than females.


The natural range of this species occupies eastern and southern Africa. Blue wildebeest are found from Kenya to eastern Namibia and as far south as the Orange River in South Africa. Preferred types of habitat are acacia savannahs and plains with rapidly re-growing grasses and moderate levels of soil moisture. Nevertheless, Blue wildebeest may occur in different habitats such as dense bushes or open woodland floodplains.

Blue Wildebeest habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Blue wildebeest are highly social creatures, gathering in one of the largest migratory herds among antelope species. This is basically caused by a seasonal shortage of suitable food and water, as a result of the harsh climate within their range. Meanwhile, populations in Serengeti-Masai Mara (Kenya/Tanzania) make up a part of the largest concentrations of large land mammals, found around the globe. Additionally, these animals constantly travel in search of suitable grass and water. Nevertheless, some individuals of this species prefer living in the same territory throughout the year, where they gather in small social units, consisting of a single alpha male as well as up to 10 adult females with their young. Females of these groups form dominant hierarchy, which is closed for outsiders. These animals spend the hottest part of the day resting. Periods of increased activity are the morning and late afternoon.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Blue wildebeest maintain a strictly herbivorous diet, generally consuming short grass. They require a constant water source and cannot survive for more than a few days without drinking water.

Mating Habits

during a 3-week period following the rainy season
8 months
1 calf
9 months

Blue wildebeest exhibit both polygynous (one male mates with multiple females) and polygynandrous (promiscuous) (both males and females breed with multiple mates) mating systems. The mating season lasts for 3 weeks, occurring just after the rainy season. The gestation period lasts for 8 months, yielding a single baby, which is capable of standing during the first 15 minutes after birth. The newborn calf will accompany its mother everywhere until 9 months old. By the end of this period, the young wildebeest is weaned but continues living with its mother until the following breeding season, when a new calf is born. After that, young females remain in their natal herd, while males disperse. The age of reproductive maturity is 16 months old in females and 2 years old in males.


Population threats

The biggest concerns to the population of this species are associated with human activities, due to which some populations cannot make their usual migration. For example, deforestation and irrigation practices bring to decline in water sources. On the other hand, fences don't allow these animals to travel. Some populations of Blue wildebeest regularly migrate to unprotected areas, where they suffer from loss of their natural habitat and are commonly poached. As a result, smaller populations of this species are restricted to protected areas. All of the above-mentioned factors are compounded by diseases, transmitted by cattle and negatively impacting the local Blue wildebeest populations.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of the Blue wildebeest is around 1,550,000 animals, including all five recognized subspecies: the Serengeti population - about 1,300,000 animals; 130,000 - Blue Wildebeest; 5,000-10,000 - Cookson’s wildebeest, and 50,000-75,000-Nyassa wildebeest. Eastern White-bearded Wildebeest are currently facing a sharp population decline and are estimated to be 6,000-8,000 individuals. Overall, population numbers of Blue wildebeests remain stable today, and the animals are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Due to grazing, these animals help to fertilize grasses, which they do through their urine and feces.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Together with even-toed horned ungulates such as antelopes, cattle, and goats, wildebeests make up the Bovidae family.
  • When threatened by a predator, group members come together, stamping and giving out alarm calls to drive away the predator. Moreover, they have been known to chase predators.
  • Imprinting helps females and their offspring recognize each other. Calves are specially taught to recognize their mothers, which they do through scent.
  • Wildebeest are otherwise called 'gnus', which is pronounced 'news'. These are quite noisy animals, constantly giving out low moaning sounds. When alarmed, wildebeest produce an abrupt snorting noise.
  • Migratory herds of this species are truly an amazing scene for one to observe. These huge aggregations of up to 1.5 million individuals. Hundreds of thousands of zebras, Thompson's gazelles, and other animals often join these herds in their migration routes.
  • Wildebeest have considerably long migration routes of 500-1000 miles. They generally migrate in May-June, although the migration time can vary depending on weather conditions.


1. Blue Wildebeest Wikipedia article -
2. Blue Wildebeest on The IUCN Red List site -

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