Hartebeest | African Wildlife Foundation

The hartebeest competes with
livestock for food

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Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • There are a total of 8 recognized subspecies
  • Estimated population of 360K hartebeest
  • Native to more than 25 African countries

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Alcelaphus buselaphus


220 to 560 lb.


5 ft. at the shoulder

Life span

12 to 15 years


Open plains and grassland




8 months


Cheetahs, jackals, lions, hyenas, leopards, hunting dogs, humans


Where do hartebeest live?

Hartebeest are mainly found in medium and tall grasslands, including savannas. They are more tolerant of high grass and woods than other alcelaphines (archetypical plains antelopes).

Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DRC, Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Kilimanjaro, Maasai Steppe, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a hartebeest?

The hartebeest is a large, fawn-colored antelope that, at first glance, seems strangely put together and less elegant than other antelopes. However, being one of the most recent and highly evolved ungulates, it is far from clumsy. In fact, it is one of the fastest antelopes and most enduring runners. These qualities gave rise to its name, which means "tough ox." Its sedentary lifestyle seems to inhibit the mixing of populations and gene flow, and as a result, there are several subspecies of hartebeest.

Behavior & Diet

Unlike your little brother, the hartebeest is not a very picky eater.

The hartebeest feeds almost entirely on grass but is not very selective and quite tolerant of poor-quality food. It has suffered from the expansion of cattle raising, as hartebeest and cattle compete for the same food.

They are mama’s boys—and girls.

The social organization of the hartebeest is somewhat different than that of other antelopes. Adult females do not form permanent associations with other adults. Instead, they are often accompanied by up to four generations of their young. Female offspring remain close to their mothers up to the time they give birth to calves of their own. Even male offspring may remain with their mothers for as long as three years, an unusually long bonding period. As groups of females move in and out of male territories, the males sometimes chase away the older offspring. Their mothers become defensive and protect them from the males. Although bachelor herds of young males are also formed, they are less structured than those of some antelopes, and age classes are not as conspicuous.

Females prefer privacy when calving.

Young are born throughout the year, but conception and breeding peaks may be influenced by the availability of food. The behavior of the female hartebeest when she gives birth is very different from that of the wildebeest. Instead of calving in groups on open plains, the hartebeest female isolates herself in scrub areas to give birth and leaves the young calf hidden for two weeks, only visiting it briefly to suckle.


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The hartebeest is competing with cattle for food.

As human populations are growing and cattle raising expands, hartebeest have found themselves competing for the grasses they love to eat. 

Hartebeest are easily hunted.

Humans are hunting the easy-to-kill hartebeest. Hartebeest are fairly sedentary and, as such, are easy hunting targets. 


Our solutions to protecting the hartebeest:

  • Create more protected spaces.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with governments and villages to designate wildlife corridors—large swaths of land that hartebeest use to roam freely and safely from one park, or country, to another. Corridors link protected areas and allow wildlife to follow rains or travel to their calving grounds in safety.

  • Provide livestock management training.

    AWF financed the Linking Livestock Markets to Conservation initiative in Kenya. With this project, pastoralists have improved their livelihoods through a partnership with Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which links pastoralists to premium livestock markets and provides high prices to those who adhere to conservation criteria, thereby reducing overstocking, rangeland degradation, and resource competition for wildlife while simultaneously increasing revenue for pastoralists.

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