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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

The Blue Wildebeest: 5 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Blue wildebeests facts are interesting to read.

The African savanna has been a part of the collective imagination of people as being the hotspot of wildlife at its best. The lions that are considered to be the 'king of animals' roam this part of the world. Herbivores that make the ecosystem of the African Savanna possible often get overshadowed. The blue wildebeest is one such animal. The Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), also called the common wildebeest, brindled gnu or the white-bearded wildebeest is a type of antelope that can be found in Southern and Eastern Africa. This species is native to Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Kenya, Angola, South Africa, Swaziland, and Tanzania. The blue in their name refers to the silver-blue sheen of their coat while their alternative name 'gnu' has its origins from what the native Khoikhoi people have called them, which in turn is based on the sounds of the wildebeest.

The wildebeest lives in big herds.  This arduous journey that can be over 600 miles, consists of constant threats from predators like the lions, hyenas, and crocodiles that infest the very rivers that the wildebeest drinks from and crosses. Despite such challenges, the wildebeest population is over 1.5 million strong. The stampedes caused by these herds can be destructive but ironically, is great for soil renewal and plant growth. The ecosystem around this is fascinating. For instance, the herd leaves tonnes of dung but this is cleared up efficiently by swarms of dung beetle, who roll it into balls and bury it right before they eat or lay eggs in it. The wildebeest lives in a herd so dense that the only large mammal that lives in denser packs is the human. The wildebeest stay active during the day, especially the mornings. There is so much to learn about the blue wildebeest, like the fact that the baby wildebeest or calf will stand and run within minutes of being born. This ensures that the calves remain in close proximity to the herd to maximize their chance of survival.  The males of this species leave when they are a year old to form a sort of bachelor herd. These bachelors in mating season will often clash by, to stake out territorial control and compete for female attention. The product of this mating ritual is that after an eight-month gestation period the calf is born, and unlike other antelopes, the female wildebeest would birth it not in privacy but in the middle of the herd if need be. Suckled by their mothers for six months, the calves rely heavily on their mothers for nurture and protection.  The spectacle of thousands of wildebeests running in their organized herds is one of the most beautiful things nature that wildlife photographers may have the privilege to capture.

Educate yourself on the marvels of the blue wildebeest by reading these curated facts.

If you find this article enjoyable, check out the leopard seal and the fennec fox.

Blue Wildebeest Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Blue Wildebeest?

The blue wildebeest is a type of antelope. It is one of the two different species of wildebeests, the other one being the black wildebeest with which the former shares a taxonomic relationship.

What class of animal does a Blue Wildebeest belong to?

The wildebeest (Connochaetes Taurinus) is a type of mammal. It belongs to the family Bovidae with animals that are cloven-hoofed and ruminant vertebrates such as the water buffalo, sheep, and goats.

How many Blue Wildebeest are there in the world?

1.5 million common wildebeests roam free in the Southern Africa Savanna. The population trends are stable to the point that their conservation status is labeled as being of 'Least Concern'.

Where does a Blue Wildebeest live?

The wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus are exclusively found in the wild in Africa. More specifically, these wildebeests occupy the Eastern and Southern African Savanna of Acacia. This includes countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. In Southern  Africa, wildebeests prefer to live close to the South African Orange River. With abundant moisture in the soil, the grass grows quickly, providing these wildebeests with plenty of green grass to graze on. While these are general pointers to find this species, it must be noted that three populations of this wildebeest (Serengeti, Tarangire, and Kafue) participate in an epic migration depending on the pattern of grass growth and rainfall.

What is a Blue Wildebeest's habitat?

The white-bearded wildebeest's habitats are the grass plains and bush-covered savanna.

Who do Blue Wildebeest live with?

The blue wildebeest lives in large herds. Living together in a big herd gives them better odds to survive their predators like the African wild dogs, lions, hyenas, leopards. Their herds travel closely with zebras and grant gazelle when they migrate. These three animals end up not getting in each other's way as they all feed on different parts and types of grass, thus avoiding conflicts over resources despite being in close proximity in their herds.

How long does a Blue Wildebeest live?

The average blue wildebeest has a life span of up to  20 years in their natural habitat. While in captivity they can live about a year longer. The oldest known individual wildebeest lived in captivity for 24 years, a definite outlier.

How do they reproduce?

The male wildebeest sexually matures when they are two years old while the female matures around 16 months. Yet females wait another year to breed. The mating season (also called, rut) is a brief period of three weeks followed right after the rainy season. This makes it so that all the calves are born around the same time after an eight-month gestation period. Interestingly, the mating season commences on the night of the full moon, indicating that the lunar cycle has an influence over the wildebeest breeding.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of this species is of Least Concern with wildebeest populations staying stable at about  1.5 million over the years. This fact can cover up the ugly details of human-related factors that affect the wildebeest. Large-scale deforestation, expansion of settlements, drying up of water bodies, and poaching have impacted the wildebeest habitat and population. A study pointed out in the Maasai Mara ecosystem population had declined from 119,000 to 22,000 due to the expansion of agriculture. The same unfortunate trend holds true for the Tarangire wildebeest migration. Thankfully, the population in Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) has seen stability and even marginal growth. Also, the eastern white-bearded wildebeest has seen a steep decline in their population, which has reached just 6000-8000 animals.

Blue Wildebeest Fun Facts

What do Blue Wildebeests look like?

Blue wildebeest facts are fun to learn about.

The blue wildebeests have a large, box-like, or cow-like head paired with a pointy beard and big curving horns. The front portion of their body is built more heavily as compared to the hindquarters which are slender and have thin legs. They have a grey coat as well as a beard that can be black or white.  The blue in their name refers to the conspicuous silver-blue shine of their coat.

How cute are they?

The wildebeest is a beautiful animal in its own right. But, with big horns that curl away from their head and their often aggressive territorial behavior, it could be hard to call them cute.

How do they communicate?

The blue wildebeest use their sense of sight and smell to communicate but are at the same time very vocal. They may even communicate with their body language.

How big is a Blue Wildebeest?

The blue wildebeest has a heavy build. It can reach 67 in-94 in (170 cm–240 cm) in length and 45 in -57 in (115 cm–145 cm) in height.

How fast can a Blue Wildebeest move?

Despite being big animals they are extremely agile. A blue wildebeest speed can reach up to 50 mph when running away from predators.

How much does a Blue Wildebeest weigh?

Male Blue wildebeest can weigh between 360 lb - 600 lb. The female blue wildebeest on the other hand can weigh between 308 lb -510 lb. A calf can weigh about 42 lb at birth.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Colloquially the male wildebeest can be referred to as the bull and the female as the cow.

What would you call a baby Blue Wildebeest?

A baby blue wildebeest is called a calf.

What do they eat?

The blue wildebeest being a herbivore, feed mainly on short grasses. These are commonly grown on alkaline and light soils which can be commonly found on plains and savanna grasslands. The broad mouth of the blue wildebeest helps them to consume short grass in large quantities be it day or night. When the grass they generally graze on is scarce, they may also consume foliage of trees and shrubs. Wildebeest and zebras are associated despite being distinct species because the zebra eats the less nutritious upper portion of the grass canopy while the greener, lower part is eaten by the wildebeest. The wildebeest also prioritizes hydration by drinking twice a day. It is thus no surprise that the wildebeest inhabit wet grasslands that have easy access to water sources. The blue wildebeest may drink between two and three gallons of water every day or two. Such is the marvel of evolution that despite such a tall requirement for water, this species survives in the extremely dry Kalahari desert by feeding on water-rich melons, tubers, and roots.

Are they dangerous?

Yes, the blue wildebeest can be dangerous with a pair of large curved horns. When the males compete over territory they grunt loudly, thrust their horns, paw the ground and display aggression in many ways.

Would they make a good pet?

No, wildebeests are wild animals that live their natural course of life in the African savanna and are not animals that can be domesticated.

Did you know...

The White-bearded wildebeest take part in the largest migratory movement of wildlife. This 600-mile migration takes place between the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara national reserve in Kenya between the months of July and October. The migration is timed in response to the rainy season. When the rainy season is about to end, the wildebeests migrate to 'dry-season areas' to find sources of water. During the rainy season, the animals trek back to the wet-season range.  It is still up for debate what exact mechanism motivates such a large migration of animals every year without fail. The Gnu is not alone in this migration and is joined by the plain Zebras and Thompson Gazelles. This migration is part of a broader ecosystem that even includes fearsome predators like lions, hyenas, crocodiles and more. Aerial photography of the migration points to a sophisticated level of organization in structure as the herd move.

What is the difference between a blue and black wildebeest?

In the fight between black wildebeest vs blue wildebeest, the latter wins because of its sheer size and big horns. The horns of the blue wildebeest curve to the side on the outwards and then upwards, while the horns of the Black wildebeest curve downward, forward, and then upwards from the front. When it comes to the mane and tails the black wildebeest have whitish tails and manes and the blue wildebeest have a black mane and tail.

What shrubs do blue wildebeest eat?

In the event that grasses are scarce the brindled gnu will feed on the foliage of shrubs. Otherwise, the brindled gnu feeds on three dominant kinds of grasses, namely: Themeda triandra, Digitaria macroblephara and Pennisetum mezianum.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including the anteater and the plains zebra.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Blue Wildebeest coloring pages.

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