Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Western White-Bearded Wildebeest

There are two species of wildebeest: the blue wildebeest and the black wildebeest. The wildebeest is an antelope and comes from the Dutch word meaning "wild beast." The blue wildebeest is also known as the white-bearded gnu and brindled gnu and has five subspecies. We saw the white-bearded wildebeest, one of the subspecies, primarily in Ngorongoro Crater, but also in Serengeti National Park. 

The western white-bearded wildebeest is found in southwestern Kenya and northern Tanzania west of the Rift Valley. It is the smallest of the subspecies and has the shortest horns. It has a broad, flattened, muzzle, cow-like horns, a short neck, and high shoulders. Their forequarters are heavy compared to the hindquarters. The horns protrude to the side, then curve downwards, and then curve up back towards the skull. It has a dark gray coat with black vertical stripes of longer hair on the forequarters, but it may also have a bluish sheen. The beard is white and it has a black facial blaze, black tail and black mane. 
I love this picture because of the diversity it shows. Several young gnu with horns, beards and manes in various stages of development. Different angles on horns and on various beards. Photo by Judy.
This looks like a picture from the geriatric ward. Knobby knees, scraggly beards, bad toupees, flat and hairy noses. So much to love. Photo by Michael Lewin. 
A face only a mother could love, and even she may be exempt. Photo by Mark Edwards.
An interesting head-bump with the horns. It almost looks like a beanie on top. Photo by Judy.
Striped hair on the side and very long and full tail. Photo by Judy.
Photo by John Mirau.
They are quite fast, reaching speeds of 50 mph and have what is known as "swarm intelligence," where they act as one in a large group to overcome an obstacle. For example, we learned that when crossing the Mara River, which is full of crocodiles, the wildebeest will gather for days on the bank, then will cross in one gigantic mass. The crocodiles will get a few of the crossing wildebeest, but the vast majority will make it through, much more than if they crossed at odd-times and gave the crocodiles more opportunity to pick them off. 
They are the most populous animal in the Serengeti ecosystem and take part in the great migration. Photo by Michael Lewin. 
Photo by Steven Shuel
Photo by Michael Lewin
They are kind of goofy and ugly, but I found them fascinating and loved to watch them. 
Not particularly bothered by the vehicle. 
Fall in line and follow the vehicles.
In Ngorongoro Crater, we watched them chasing each other about, and then males would go at each other at great speeds and crash heads and horns. 
These two get about as close to each other as possible. Perhaps this is why they have such flat faces. Photo by Esmee Tooke.  
These two prepare to crash head-on. Photo by Esmee Tooke.
These to have just crashed head-on and stagger backwards. Photo by John Mirau


  1. This animal looks like someone put a zebra, water buffalo, horse, cow, and deer into the blender, pushed pulse, then spit out the crazy wildebeest.

  2. I love Chris's comment. Africa is full of bizarre animals, and this one is near the top. That photo near the beginning that I took wasn't really of a PURPLE wildebeest. Some weird lighting or photoshopping going on there.