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An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet
Kobus megaceros
Nile lechwe
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Common name:
Scientific name:
Other names:
Nile lechwe
Kobus megaceros
Mrs. Gray's lechwe, Cobe de Madame Gray, Lechwe du Nil, Frau Grays Wasserbock, Weißnacken-Moorantilope

Physical Characteristics

Head and body length: 160-180 cm (males), 130-170 cm (females)
Shoulder height: 100-105 cm (males), 80-85 cm (females)
Tail length: 45-50 cm
Adult weight: 90-120 kg (males), 60-90 kg (females)

The Nile lechwe has a very shaggy coat. The hair on the cheeks is particularly long in both sexes, and males may have even longer hair on their necks. Males and females have strikingly different coloration: females and juveniles are golden brown, while males become a rich mahogany or brownish-black as they age. Mature males have a white "saddle" on the shoulders and white markings on their otherwise dark faces; females do not have these strong markings, and in immature males, they remain golden brown. Only males grow horns, which rise from the head and bend backwards before curving upwards at the tips. The horns are stongly ridged at their bases, and grow 50-87 cm long.

Similar species
  • The white-eared kob (Kobus kob leucotis) is also from Sudan, and although it is smaller, it has similar sexual dimorphism: males are very dark with white markings and females are golden brown. The Nile lechwe is larger and has a much shaggier coat than the white-eared kob; the white shoulder patch of the Nile lechwe is also distinctive.

Reproduction and Development

Gestation period: 7-9 months reported, averaging 240 days.
Litter size: 1.
Weaning: 5-6 months.
Sexual maturity: 19-20 months.
Life span: Up to 21 years in captivity.

In the wild, most births occur from November to January. After birth, infants are hidden away from the herd for approximately two weeks, and are visited by their mothers for nursing. Females typically breed every year.

Ecology and Behavior

Nile lechwe undergo short seasonal movements (30-40 km) to follow the rise and fall of floodwaters. Males in mixed herds form a dominance hierarchy based on coloration. Males which lack the fully mature white markings are usually tolerated, but two closely-matched mature males will fight vigorously - often clashing their horns with heads underwater. Dominant males will urinate through their front legs onto their neck mane, and then may rub this onto females.
Family group: Large mixed groups with 50 to several hundred individuals. Bachelor herds are also seen.
Diet: Grasses and other marsh vegetation.
Main Predators: The flooded habitat used by the Nile lechwe has relatively few predators; rarely, lion, leopard, or crocodile may hunt this species.

Habitat and Distribution

The Nile lechwe lives in swamps and flooded grasslands in southern Sudan and western Ethiopia, and are often found in shallow water 10-40 cm deep. The approximate range is depicted in the map below.

Range Map
(Redrawn from IEA, 1998)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: Endangered (2008).
CITES Listing: Not listed (2011).
Threats: Hunting, competition with cattle, and modification of habitat through the construction of dams.

The total population is unknown; 30,000-40,000 individuals were estimated in 1983, but no full surveys have been completed since. The current population is likely significantly reduced.

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