Posted Oct 14, 2016
Greater Kudu are magnificent animals: graceful and majestic. A full-grown bull can stand over 60 inches at the shoulder, weigh 600lbs and have twisting horns nearly 4 feet long. The males are grey, with pronounced white markings on their face and a few pale stripes on the side of the body. Females are similar in coloring but smaller and lack horns. In the wild they live between 6 and 8 years.
Despite its great size, the bull kudu has two remarkable abilities. It can leap 6 feet into the air from a standing position and is often called the Gray Ghost for its ability to remain hidden even when close by. It can make getting good photos of them a difficult and time-consuming task.
Kudu can tolerate heat reasonably well but not cold. We lost several females one winter when the temperature dropped to 18°F one night (even in South Africa it can get cold in winter!) They are browsers and by the end of winter, which is also the dry season, food can be scarce, which lowers their resistance. To avoid further deaths, I supplemented their diet with lucerne during winter by leaving it on the ground near our house. Once they became used to us, we could often see the herd munching away while we sat in the garden.
After birth calves hide in the veldt, away from the herd, for about 10 days. They lack any smell so predators can’t find them. They then join the main herd. Females will stay with the herd throughout their lives.
Males leave when they’re around two year old and join bachelor groups until the mating season, when they separate and push for dominance to build their harems. If a large male loses the dominant position, he will leave the area. Even our 7 foot high fence would not stop them going.
To replace the dead females and one large male which jumped the fence, I went to an auction to buy a family of kudu. The auction was in Afrikaans, which is not a language I speak. Despite warning the auctioneer of this, things did not go well. I won the bid on the wanted lot but when I tried to pay I found that I had bought, not one family of five kudu as expected, but five families totaling 30 animals! The problem was resolved with a lot of muttering about foolish English farmers but the single family was delivered a few days later.
Although the recommended stocking density is about five animals for a farm of our size of 250 acres, we often had ten animals roaming about. That they bred so well showed that we were fortunate to have the right trees and vegetation to provide good browsing throughout the year.
Aside from their susceptibility to cold, Greater Kudu are normally healthy animals, which thrive on a game farm with the right mix of bushes, trees and vegetation.