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Animal Reference

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THE BUSHBUCK

5 December 2013

QUICK FACTS

Scientific Name : Tragelaphus scriptus

Weight (Adult Ram) : +/- 71 kg

Weight: (Adult Ewe) : +/- 36 kg

Shoulder height (Adult Ram) : +/- 79 cm

Skouerhoogte: (Adult Ewe) : +/- 69 cm

Gestation period : From 180 to 200 days

Weight at birth : +/- 2.5 to 4.5 kg

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The bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus is one of six species of Tragelaphus, a genus that was first described scientifically by De Blainville in 1816. The bushbuck was first described scientifically as Antilopa scripta by Pallas in 1766 based on a specimen from Senegal. There are seven subspecies, with the southern bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus sylvaticus in southern Africa. The Limpopo bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus rowaleynei is no longer recognized as a valid subspecies, but the Chobe bushbuck of the Chobe and Zambezi River valley is still being recognized as Tragelaphus scriptus ornatus. The bushbuck shows a north-south morphological cline with the smallest horns and largest skull in South Africa and the largest horns in West Africa. Fossil bushbuck species are known from Africa in the Pliocene some 7 to 2.5 million years ago. The colloquial name indicates the habitat of choice.

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The bushbuck occurs widely in Africa south of the Sahara. In South Africa it occurs in the Limpopo River valley and in the eastern and southern coastal parts as far west as Swellendam on the south coast, the latter where the first specimen in South Africa was collected for scientific description. Only the ram has horns with a single spiral. The ram has a mean shoulder height of 79 cm and weighs 71 kg as opposed to 69 cm and 36 kg in the ewes. The adult ram is dark brown in colour. There is a white horizontal bar on the throat, and the neck sometimes appears to be grey because the bushbuck rubs the neck on branches which removes some hair. The sides of the face are lighter than the body and the forehead, and the top of the muzzle are dark. The lips and chin are white and there is a white spot just below and behind the eyes and another one towards the base of the ears. There also is a white patch on the throat. A white to yellowish white mane occurs from the shoulders to the base of the tail and the belly is white. The adult ewe is usually lighter in colour than the ram. The lamb is dark fawn in colour. There are a few conspicuous white dots above the belly and on the thighs.

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The bushbuck is a highly selective browser and the diet consist of 90% leaves, twigs, flowers and wild fruits, and 10% grass. However, the bushbuck seldom feeds on sprouting grasses. It freely enters water to feed and hides in shallow water when it is disturbed by predators. It can swim well for as far as 3 km without tiring. The bulk of its food consists of leaves but fine twigs with buds are also eaten. The bushbuck feeds up to a height of 2 m by standing on the hind legs to reach the higher food but prefers to feed at a height of around 52 cm above the ground. The bushbuck is independent of water but will drink 1.5 to 3 litres of water per day when it is available. The bushbuck prefers a habitat that is close to water in dense shrubs, forests, closed bushveld or fynbos. In the eastern Drakensberg Range the bushbuck occurs as high as 1800 m above sea level. Arid areas can be penetrated along water courses that have dense riverine forests or thickets. The bushbuck is not territorial and its range size may vary from 3 to 175 ha depending on the quality of the habitat and the season.

The bushbuck is a lone animal with excellent senses of hearing, sight and smell. It is active by day, although small herds consisting of an adult ram, two adult ewes and their young may form at times. The ram becomes sexually mature when it is ten months old and the ewe mates for the first time when she is 14 months old. The bushbuck breeds throughout the year, but with peaks of mating in the Spring and Autumn. Gestation lasts 180 to 200 days and the single lamb weighs 2.5 to 4.5 kg at birth. The ewe hides the lamb in dense underbrush for the first three weeks of its life. Adult bushbuck are mainly preyed on by lions, leopards, spotted hyaenas and African wild dogs while the lambs are preyed on by pythons and caracals. Bushbuck are also bitten by tsetse flies. The life expectancy is around 16 years. A wounded bushbuck ram can be extremely dangerous when it is cornered.

 

References:

Grubb, P 2005. Order Artiodactyla. In D E Wilson and D M Reeder (Eds), Mammal species of the world – a taxonomic and geographic reference, third edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 698 - 699.

Pitzer, S and I Colenbrander 2005. The bushbuck. In J du P Bothma and N van Rooyen (Eds), Intensive wildlife production in southern Africa. Pretoria: Van Schaik, pp. 203 - 213.

Skinner, J D and C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 632 - 635.

article by: Prof J du P Bothma

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