Wildebeest Fun Facts

Some mistaken wildebeests as a relative of the bovine family due to their disproportional body and strongly built front end. They’re actually one of the largest antelopes, reaching up to 8 ft in length and 600 pounds. During The Great Migration, these awe-inspiring animals travel between 500 and 1000 miles.

Wildebeests have a mane just like horses do. Both males and females have curved horns. These animals are grazers, eating mostly short grass. They need to drink water about every other day. Wildebeest travel in herds which protect them from their main predators: lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs and African wild dogs.

Due to Africa’s harsh climate, wildebeests are well known for their seasonal migration. They’ll move north and west when sources of food and water become scarce. These migrations are one of the most fascinating events seen in Africa.  Safari itineraries can be planned accordingly to take full advantage of experiencing this incredible phenomena. Take a peek at this video that show how wildlife viewing can be maximized with strategic trip planning in Tanzania.

The Serengeti National Park is particularly famous for the Great Migration, which describes the annual cycle of movements made by wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and eland. Elands, weighing up to 2,000 pounds, are the largest of the antelope species while Thomson’s gazelles, affectionately called Tommies, are the fastest. The migratory movements are slightly different for each animal but the general pattern is that the migration uses the Southern Serengeti Plains in the green season and the Northern Serengeti Woodlands in the dry season.

The wildebeest, in particular, follow a fairly predictable clock wise route around the Serengeti Ecosystem on a never-ending quest for fresh green grass and water. At roughly 1.7 million strong, this giant lawnmower quickly exhausts pastures. During the green season (December to May), the wildebeest are located on the Southern and Eastern Plains.

Typically in early May (the beginning of the dry season), the great herds are forced to depart the plains due to lack of water and immediately shift west to the Western Serengeti and greener pastures. The wildebeest herds remain in the West until July when the dry season completely takes hold forcing them to venture further north towards the permanent sources of water in the Mara River and Lamai Triangle watershed areas of the North Serengeti.

During the heart of the dry season from July to November, the wildebeest mainly occupy the North Serengeti with some spilling over into Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve. Scattered showers typically begin in November, heralding the end of the dry season, and trigger the migration southwards to their ancestral calving grounds on the Southern Plains where the eternal cycle repeats once more.

Check out this helpful animated migration map for a month by month analysis of the famous great migration.

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