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KKudu antelope are among the most beautiful animals of the bush. With their great cupped ears, fluffy tails and proud bearing, they’re most often seen in savannah and bushveld – in practically every national park. The males have spectacular spiral horns, which they use more for breaking off tasty branches than aggression.
In most parts of the country, especially savannah areas, chances are good you’ll spot a kudu. They occur in most of the country’s national parks. In fact, South African National Parks’ emblem is a kudu head.
These large, graceful antelope (in South Africa, antelope are known generically as 'buck' whether they are male or female) eat mostly leaves, but they are also called 'gourmet browsers', because they’ll supplement their diets with tubers, fresh grass, fruit and flowers.
The males have long spiral horns twisting two-and-a-half times, measuring nearly a metre. They sometimes use them to break off branches from palatable trees that are above head height. Shepherd’s trees are a particular favourite. Thanks to kudus, they always look carefully pruned.
You’d think such long horns would be a hazard in the thick bush. But the bulls just lift their chins so that the horns lie flat along their backs and pick their way effortlessly through dense thicket. The females have no horns and are discernibly smaller.
Their colouring is a cryptic brownish-grey with vertical stripes and a crest of hair along their backs. If they stand still, you can easily overlook them. Kudus blend into the shadows and light of thick bush easily.
Once you spot them, though, you’ll immediately notice huge, lily-shaped ears, a white chevron between their eyes, a muzzle that looks as if it was dipped in milk, and a short tail with a white underside that flashes when they run.
If spotted and chased, kudu move quickly, and can even jump 2m obstacles like fences quite easily.
The males very seldom use their spectacular horns aggressively. The way bulls establish dominance among themselves is by standing side-on and making themselves look as big as possible by fluffing out their crests and bristling their tails.
Usually no further action is required, but if it is, it usually consists of locking horns and pushing back and forth in a display of controlled strength – in a kind of antelope judo.
TTravel tips & Planning info
How to get here
Most of South Africa’s national parks, notably those in the eastern half of the country, have kudu. Look out for them in the Kruger, Addo Elephant, Karoo, Mountain Zebra and Mokala national parks. They can also be seen in KwaZulu-Natal parks like Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and others.
Best time to visit
Kudu are somewhat easier to see in winter (June to August), when many trees lose their leaves.
This is an antelope you’ll easily be able to see without a guide, so you can do your own game drive in your own vehicle.
What to pack
Take along binoculars, which makes game spotting so much easier. A camera with a zoom lens also helps you capture memories without spooking the game.
Where to stay
National parks have great accommodation at reasonable prices.