Identifying Characteristics:

Bull: 
Shoulder height +/- 1.5m high

Mass: +/- 250kg
Cow:
Shoulder height +/- 1.3m high

Mass: +/- 180kg

In February 2012 Piet du Toit presented the kings wildebeest on his first game auction. The bull was sold on that auction for R5,100,000 + VAT. After that auction there were many farmers who looked for king wildebeest. At that stage the king wildebeest was very scarce, and many in the game industry was unfamiliar with the king wildebeest. 

In June 2013 a meeting was arranged by existing king wildebeest breeders with a view to pen down the characteristics of the king wildebeest and to set a standard. The meeting was held at the WRSA offices in Pretoria. A huge effort was made by the organisers to get all the farmers and breeders that were interested in king wildebeest together. Any one was welcome and all were invited, not just the existing king wildebeest breeders. 

There was a big interest and more people arrived at the meeting than was expected. The hall was packed to capacity. Some king wildebeest breeders brought photographs of their king wildebeest and these were displayed on large screens. Everyone present could give comments and the characteristics was discussed at length by all who attended. 

The characteristics as determined by the king wildebeest breeders in June 2013:

  • A king wildebeest must have a grey/blue to dark blue/black colour on his body, similar to the colour of the ordinary blue wildebeest and darker.
  • The tail, mane and beard must be white. King wildebeest are born with a white tail, beard and mane.
  • The nose and mouth around the eyes and inside the ears must be pink in colour. This is a characteristic of all king wildebeest, although some may be lighter pink and some darker pink.
  • The colour of the face of the adult king wildebeest should be mostly or completely white. At a younger stage the face has darker shades of brown and black which will turn lighter as the king wildebeest grows older.
  • The king wildebeest must have a white line on its back from where the mane ends to his rump.
  • If the king wildebeest has a spot on his body, these spots should be identical on both sides of the animal.

Note: a spot is not a requisite characteristic of the king wildebeest.



Konings wildebees telers komiteeKing Wildebeest Breeders Committee

During the same meeting mentioned before, it was decided to establish a king wildebeest committee. Those present at the meeting made the nominations and voted.

From left to right:
Chris Basson
Ferdie Oosthuizen
Dries Visser (chairperson)
Kruger van Zyl
Wiekus Ras

Distribution:

Found mainly in central, south and south-eastern Botswana in the “Tuli Blok”, as well as in South Africa where these first animals are on certain game farms.



Propagation:

Breeding season is usually March to April and the valves are born after +/- 260 days between November and December. This can however be influenced by factors like drought with the result that cows will calf later and spread out from each other to give the calves a better chance of survival. The calves weights +/- 20 kg at birth and can run with the mother within minutes from birth.

The colour of the calf is light brown/cream but already has from birth the characteristic white/blond coloured tail and mane. After +/- 3 months its colouring starts to change; the blue/grey colour changes systematically into a light brown colour. The head can take up to 30 months to change into the adult white/blond colour and will not change again. The spot on the side can change however; it can become larger or smaller depending on the stress during the breeding season and the calving season. The spot is not transferred to the calf but the identifying characteristics are. Therefore the same breeding pair can give one season a calf with a big spot and the next season one with a smaller spot or no spot at all.


How did the King Wildebeest originate?

The old Boer name for the King wildebeest was “Bont Wildebeeste” , due to their appearance. The first king wildebeest that was captured for breeding purposes was done by myself and late Oom Jaap Segers from Vaalwater. All the original “bont wildebeeste” originated directly from nature where they roamed freely on hundreds and thousands of hectare.

It is therefore clearly a recessive gene and has nothing to do with inbreeding. Inbreeding is a malformation and the first signs of inbreeding are normally malformed horns and/or smaller body.

Nevertheless I placed the first of these “bont wildebeeste” in a breeding project and I was lucky enough to get a “bont” bull calf from one of the cows. This was in 2002 and I still have one of the original cows which I started out with. 

She is now at least 15 years old and still delivers her calf every year. I have called her “Ouma”. 

“Ouma” is also the mother of the bull “King” that was her first child. “King” was the first bull that I sold to the respectable Oom Dries Visser and that is where we decided on the name “King wildebeest” and that is where the kings wildebeest was born.



"Ouma" with her calf.

Why do we breed with King Wildebeest and what is the purpose thereof?

We as breeders may differ and will also differ in our purpose. For me as a person it is all about the animal itself. I am totally infatuated on King wildebeest and it is my passion to better them; better in terms of body build and naturally the end product – the hunting market. We keep on saying this to each other but many of us miss this: these animals, no matter how beautiful and special must be hunted one day and nobody is interested in weak animals with weak genes in terms of body build and horns. That is why I strive and hope other breeders as well - make these animals even more lovely and the only way this can be achieved is by enhancing the genetics. Remember this is actually a stud that you are breeding and no stud, wheter a bovine, sheep or dog stud can be established overnight.

We as breeders should strive to obtain the best genetics in order to better our own studs. This is why I will never believe that the “bubble” has burst, because then I have to say that the studs for bovine, sheep, goats, dogs etc -  bubble will also burst.

I want to encourage anyone who invests in King Wildebeest to handle these magnificent animals carefully, to respect them and to strive to do what the name says “Breed a King” and not a subordinate!!

- Kruger van Zyl