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Blue Gnu: 21 Facts You Won't Believe!

More interesting blue gnu facts here.

The blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), also known as blue gnu, brindled gnu, white-bearded gnu, white-bearded wildebeest, or common wildebeest, is a giant antelope of the family Bovidae. William John Burchell, an English naturalist, first described the blue wildebeest in 1824. These species share the genus Connochaetes with black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnu). A study found that these two species have a close polygenetic relationship and diverged as two species a million years ago. The genus has two Greek words, konnos, which means 'beard,' and khaite means 'flowing hair' or 'mane.' The specific scientific name 'taurinus' means bullock or bull is Greek (tauros). These wildebeests are named blue wildebeest due to their silvery-blue sheen coat. Also, the name gnu has its origins in Khoekhoe name of these species 't'gnu.' Originally, the blue wildebeest was placed in the Gorgon genus, and the black wildebeest or white-tailed gnu was in Connochaetes. There are five recognized subspecies of the Connochaetes taurinus, Nyasaland wildebeest (C. t. johnstoni), common wildebeest (C. t. taurinus), western white-bearded wildebeest (C.t. mearnsi), eastern white-bearded wildebeest (C.t. albojubatus), and Cookson's wildebeest (C. t. cooksoni).

If you like the blue gnu, learn some more interesting facts about the black-tailed deer and reindeer here on Kidadl.

Blue Gnu Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a blue gnu?

The blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) is a wildebeest species of the order Artiyodactyla and phylum Chordata. This species is active in the morning and late afternoon and rests in the hottest hours. However, they feed in the day and night. These species rest in places close to their kind and also move in a loose group. At the age of four or five, the males or bulls become territorial, active, and very noisy. The annual migration is also characteristic of this species. Females usually lead the herd to a safe habitat with nutritious grasses and avoid predators while raising their calves in the rainy season.

What class of animal does a blue gnu belong to?

The blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) belongs to class mammals of animals and against common misconception, are not birds.

How many blue gnus are there in the world?

The population number of the blue wildebeest or common wildebeest is around 1.5 million in the savannahs of southern Africa.

Where does a blue gnu live?

The blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) is native to southern and eastern Africa. This wildebeest occupies Mozambique, Kenya, Botswana, Angola, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Tanzania. The population of this wildebeest is now extinct in Malawi. Around 100 years ago, there were a lot of migratory populations of the wildebeest but now there are only three, Tarangire, Serengeti, and Kafue. The southern African habitat range extends till the Orange river, and the western range till mount Kenya and lake victoria. The habitats occupied by the subspecies are:

The common wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus taurinus) is found in the regions extending from South Africa and Namibia through Mozambique and from southwest Zambia through south Angola.

The Cookson's wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus cooksoni) is found in Luangwa valley, Zambia.

The eastern white-bearded wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus albojubatus) population range extends from northern Tanzania through central Kenya in the Gregory rift valley.

The western white-bearded wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus mearnsi) occupies southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.

The Nyasaland wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus johnstoni) occupies from Mozambique through east-central Tanzania.

What is a blue gnu's habitat?

The blue wildebeest occupies short grass plains, overgrazed areas, and open woodland floodplains

Who does blue gnu live with?

The blue wildebeest lives in large herds. They form these herds to stay safe from predators and this also helps the calves to have a higher chance of survival in the wild.

How long does a blue gnu live?

The average lifespan of the blue wildebeest in captivity is 21 years and in the wild, they live up to 20 years of age. The oldest of the wildebeest lived up to 24.3 years.  

How do they reproduce?

The female blue wildebeests can become sexually mature to produce young in 16 months with proper nutrition and the males become mature at two years. However, females breed after the first year of their life. The mating season coincides with the end of the rainy season and it lasts for three weeks. Rut or mating season begins on a full moon night, which shows that the lunar cycle influences reproduction. Also, the testosterone production in males is high at this time making them highly territorial. Males display for females includes rivalry, snorting, digging their horns into the ground against another male. After a male dominates he then tries to lure the female into his territory. Some activities like low-stretch and urination are common during courtship. A receptive female holds still and puts her tail to one side for the copulation process. She can mate with many males. The gestation period lasts for eight and a half months and 80-90% of calves are born within three weeks time. Calves are born or females give birth in the middle of the day and in the middle of their herd. The calves stay closer to their mothers to escape predators and the male calves leave around eight months of age. The survival of these calves in larger herds is more compared to smaller ones.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the blue wildebeests is the Least Concern. The main cause of the death of these species is predation. Other threats they face are diseases, poaching, expansion of land, and fenced areas. The current population in the Serengeti National park, Hange national park, and Etosha national park is stable.

Blue Gnu Fun Facts

What does blue gnu look like?

The blue wildebeests are large antelopes and bulls are darker than cows. They have a long black tail which is 24-39 in (60-100 cm) long and curved horns. The markings and features of these species are bilaterally symmetrical. They have a heavy muscular appearance and robust muzzle. Calves are tawny brown and gain adult color after two months. The adult can be bluish-gray to light gray, grayish-brown, or deep slate in color. The underparts and ventral surface are slightly darker than the flanks and the back. There is a dark brown vertical stripe between the back of their ribcage and neck, which is why they are named 'bridled gnu.' Both the genders have black stiff, long, and thick manes. A clear oil is secreted by a scent gland that is present in the forefeet and is smaller in cows than bulls. The western white-bearded wildebeests have the smallest skull than other subspecies. The eastern white-bearded wildebeests have the lightest color and the Nyasaland wildebeests have the longest muzzles. The manes stick up in the Nyasaland wildebeests whereas in eastern and western white-bearded wildebeests they are lank. The length of horns in bulls can extend up to 33 in (83 cm) and in cows up to 12-16 in (30-40 cm). These species have horns similar to those of the African buffalos.

The blue gnus are found around habitats with food and water resources.

How cute are they?

The blue wildebeests are not considered cute.

How do they communicate?

The blue wildebeests communicate through body language, loud noises, and touch.

How big is a blue gnu?

The blue wildebeests are 67-94 in (170-240 cm) in length measuring a little more than their relatives, black wildebeests which are 67-87 in (170-220 cm). Bulls are larger than cows. Also, the blue wildebeests are 45-57 in (115-145 cm) tall which is also a little more than the black wildebeests.

How fast can a blue gnu run?

The blue wildebeests are agile and fast runners. They can run up to a speed of 50 mph (80 kph).

How much does a blue gnu weigh?

The blue wildebeests can weigh up to 570-640 lb (260-290 kg)

What are the male and female names of the species?

The females are called cows and the males are called bulls.

What would you call a baby blue gnu?

The blue wildebeest babies are called calves.

What do they eat?

The blue wildebeests feed on grass, leaves, shoots, shrub, and tree foliage.

Are they dangerous?

Yes, this African wildebeest can be dangerous to human beings.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these are giant antelopes and are wild animals. They thrive in their natural territory.

Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.

Did you know...

The Serengeti National Park analyzed the activities of these wildebeests which showed that they spend half of their time resting, 33% grazing, 12% moving around and walking, and left time socially interacting.

The blue and black wildebeests are food for African wild dogs, hyenas, crocodiles, lions, cheetahs, and leopards.

Is a gnu a wildebeest?

This large antelope is called gnu as it has origins in Khoekhoe name of these species 't'gnu.' Wildebeest is a dutch word for 'wild cattle' or 'wild beast' in the Afrikaans. They are also known as blue wildebeest due to the silver-blue sheen of fur on their body, which may also range from gray to brown.

Do wildebeests sleep?

Yes, the wildebeests do sleep. They rest or sleep in the hottest hour using the system of guard duty and rotation and the herd runs together as a group to escape any predator.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our Macaque monkey facts and swamp rabbit facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring on one of our Blue Gnu coloring pages.

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