The wildebeests, also called gnus, are a genus of antelopes, scientific name Connochaetes. They belong to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, sheep and other even-toed horned ungulates. The genus consists of 2 species and 4 sub species:
- Black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou)
- Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus taurinus)
The Golden wildebeest, King wildebeest and the Golden King wildebeest are not classified as sub species but are referred to as variants. They originate from Botswana, specifically the Tuli Block. These wildebeest variants has not enjoyed much love and attention in the past and because of ignorance the were severely hunted. These animals have a recessive colour and therefore the scarcity of the variants. It is only lately that the game breeders in South Africa have taken an interest in these rare and beautiful animals and are now breeding for conservation.
Wildebeest are found on grasslands of southern and eastern Africa.
The biggest herds are to be found in the Serengeti-desert. They migrate in the dry season to suitable grassland and can travel thousands of kilometres per year. Wildebeest grows from 1.15m to 1.40m (measured from the ground to the hump) and weights between 150-250kg when they are fully grown. They can reach an age of more than 20 years.
The cows calve in the summer months. These calves are able to flee with the mother after only 10 minutes from birth. The new breeding season starts are soon as the calves have been born. The dominant bulls mark and defend their territory with urine and dung.
Wildebeest play an important part in the ecosystem. Their dung fertilises the ground and they trample the plants that lead to new growth. They are also a food source for predators such as lion and hyena.