Posted Oct 20, 2016
The nyala is closely related to the kudu and is the most sexually dimorphic of all antelope. Many people, myself included, think this to be the most attractive of the African buck.
Adult males stand about 40 inches at the shoulder and have a dark grey, almost black, coat and yellow legs. A short white mane extends along their back, while a shaggy black beard runs down their neck and continues under their chest. They have a white band across their eyes and on their muzzles, with several white stripes down the sides of the body. Only the males possess horns, which sweep back and curve in a lyre shape. When they’re younger, their coloring is similar to the female.
Adult females grow to 36 inches at the shoulder and are a light rusty brown, with white spots and stripes on their bodies. Babies are beautiful creatures, similar in color and markings to their mother.
Nyala are not territorial and live in herds of around five or six in number. Herds of 80 have been recorded. They are secretive and prefer forested areas. On the game farm owned by my wife and myself, we could go for weeks without seeing any sign of them.
Before we bought our farm, three young animals, a male and two females, escaped from a farm further down the road. Much to the annoyance of their previous owner, this became the start of our nyala herd. Unlike kudu, which will jump a fence, nyala can slip under or between the wires.
Females can give birth three times in two years, starting at a little over a year old. Like many antelope, the babies hide in the undergrowth after birth. During this time it will suckle and walk with its mother at night but be hidden again during the day. It is regularly licked clean by the mother to remove any smell so predators can’t find it. Once it is steady on its feet and can run, it will join the herd which normally happens after about 18 days.
The nyala diet varies through the year. In the rainy season, about 80% of what they eat consists of grass but in the dry season this changes to about 90% browsing on leaves and twigs. When the grass had disappeared during the dry season, I supplemented their diet by putting out lucerne (also known as alfalfa) every few days. The lucerne was piled on the ground near our garden but we would only see the nyala just as darkness fell or very early in the morning. They would only come after the giraffe had started feeding and bolted the moment the giraffe showed any sign of disturbance.
The nyala’s shyness, coupled its looks, made it one of my favorite animals on the farm.