Greater Kudu

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tragelaphus strepsiceros

  • SWAHILI NAME: Tandala mkubwa

The greater kudu has some of the most spectacular horns in the animal kingdom. An adult male’s horns make two complete spirals, with a striking ridge circling each horn. You can tell a kudu’s age by the direction of the tips of the horns: If the tips point back and out, for instance, the male is about 3 three years old.

Greater Kudu

Greater Kudu



Daily Rhythm




Life span

In the wild: 9 years (male); 12 years (female)
In captivity: 22 years

Conservation Status

Lower risk


Male: 384 to 758 lb (174 to 344 kg)
Female: 247 to 462 lb (112 to 210 kg)


Male: 48 to 56 in (122 to 143 cm) high at the shoulder
Female: 39 to 55 in (99 to 139 cm) high at the shoulder

Greater Kudu

Listen to the sounds of the Greater Kudu

Tracks and Scat

Tracks: Prints come to a sharp, distinct point.
Scat: Dense, round pellets; resemble a young giraffe's, so identifying the track is key

Greater Kudu tracks

Trivia Question

Which live longer: male or female kudus?


Male kudus live much shorter lives than females. Once a male reaches six years of age, there is only a 50 percent chance that he will survive another year.

Social Structure

Greater kudus live in clans—bonded social groups of about seven to ten individuals. These groups consist of adult females, juveniles, the very young, and adult males less than two years old. At age two, males leave the clan and live either in pairs or in groups led by older adult males. Dominance ranking between males is based on age; males emphasize their size by hunching their backs and raising their manes, but will not engage in sparring unless the other male is equal in size. Older females do not participate in dominance ranking. Females tend to remain in their mother’s clan, though clans will split if the group grows too large. When this occurs, the home range is divided between groups. Some groups of kudus follow a leader—usually an older male—who moves on his own but is trailed by the rest of the clan.


With excellent vision and hearing, greater kudus communicate mostly through sight and sound. Scent is also useful; kudus can track other individuals over long distances by following their scent trails. Body signals, such as flashing the white undersides of their tails, are used to indicate the movements and presence of predators. Kudus will emit a loud bark to warn others of danger, but otherwise are not very vocal. Most communication occurs between members of a particular social group; different clans usually ignore one another even when they are together.


Greater kudu forage in the early morning and again in the late afternoon and into the evening, spending an estimated 63 percent of their day and about half of their night just eating. Right before dawn, kudus curl up on the ground to rest. To determine dominance, males spar playfully. If the males are comparable in size, they lock horns and push or twist against each other. On rare occasions, their spiraling horns become so entangled that the males become trapped together—and eventually die.


With striking horns and good meat, greater kudus seem an ideal target for hunters, but their populations have proven resistant to poaching. This is likely due to their cautious and elusive behavior. Furthermore, farmers and ranchers do not mind their presence because they do not compete with livestock for food. Living close to ranches can be problematic for kudus because they are susceptible to diseases that cattle contract.

Range & Habitat

Greater kudus are relatively common in southern Africa, where their population is actually expanding beyond protected regions, particularly into the western areas. Their northern range, however, has been declining. Greater kudus often live close to ranches and human settlements. An estimated 60 percent live on private land; their preference for trees and shrubs allows them to coexist with cattle and other grazers without competing for resources.

Greater kudu prefer savannas, though they can live wherever a wide range of vegetation grows. They particularly like drier grasslands as well as regions with evergreens and plentiful thickets. However, they also can live in semi-deserts.


As browsers, greater kudus eat a wide variety of leaves and plants. Woody plants, such as mimosa thorn trees, raisin bush, and bush willows, make up most off their diet. Kudus also munch on forbs and fruits, including goat apples, wild cucumbers, and the aptly-named kudu-berries. Male kudus use their long horns to pull down some of these hard-to-reach plants. In the dry season, the greater kudu broadens its eating choices even further and becomes more dependent on water, though it is usually able to go for long periods without drinking.


When a male greater kudu is ready to mate, he joins a female group and remains there for one to two weeks. Before mating, the male must court the female; he will not even attempt mating until she is ready. To gauge her receptiveness, the male stands with his head held high and nose in the air and stretches his neck out over the female’s back. If she is willing, the male and female mate, often apart from the group. They stay together for a day. Males do not attach themselves permanently to any one group, so each coupling is temporary, and males shift constantly between different clans. Gestation lasts from 259 to 271 days, after which the female gives birth to a single calf. The mother then leaves the calf to rejoin her clan, returning each day to nurse her newborn. She calls her calf with a soft moo. The baby nurses and returns to its hiding place, and the mother goes back to the herd. This period lasts for eight to ten weeks, and it’s the most dangerous time in a kudu’s life; only half of kudu calves survive from birth to the end of their first dry season. Once a part of the clan, calves form their own unit rather than staying with their mothers. Although the young are able to begin browsing at the age of six weeks, they are not weaned until they reach six or seven months.

Friends & Foes

Greater kudus are one of the main hosts for the tsetse fly, though they suffer no adverse effects from the insect. They are also known for their ability to eat plants such as euphorbia and aloe leaves that are toxic to other species. Adult kudus are preyed upon by lions, leopards, African hunting dogs, and hyenas; cheetahs, pythons, and large raptors target the young.

Population in Kenya & Beyond

The total population of greater kudus is estimated at about 482,000. The largest populations live in Namibia and South Africa, with 200,000 and 60,000 animals, respectively. Historically, their populations have been affected by rinderpest, an infectious viral disease that spread in epidemic proportions in the 1890s. Greater kudu in Kenya were hit by another outbreak in the 1990s.

Greater Kudu

Did you know?

Greater kudus are incredible jumpers. From a standing position, they can leap over fences 6.5 feet (2 m) high!