Written by Tom Murphy
The Black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) is sometimes referred to as the white-tailed gnu. Its average weight runs between 250-425 pounds. Shoulder height is four feet. Overall length 65 inches to 90 inches. The black wildebeest has a dark brown to black coat with a rather incongruous white tail. Males are darker than females. Both sexes have forward-curving horns up to 30 inches long, with the female’s horns being shorter but similar in shape to the male’s.
They are herbivores, existing almost exclusively on grass and while they like to drink daily, they can survive if water is scarce. They are active during the early morning hours and after the heat has gone out of the day. They are capable of speeds up to 55 miles per hour. Life expectancy is 20 to 22 years in the wild. They are prey to lion, hyena, Cape hunting dog, leopard, cheetah, and crocodile, the last especially during the wildebeest migration when the animal is forced to cross rivers. Crocodiles wait for a sick, old, or young black wildebeest to cross, then rise out of the water and drag the unfortunate animal under. Lions hunt the mature black wildebeest, while hyenas hunt calves.
Black wildebeest belong to one of three distinct groups. The all-male herds consist of young males or those past the breeding age. The female herds consist of adult females with their calves. Then there are the mature males that establish their territory and maintain it throughout the year. Males become sexually mature at three years; females at one or two years. They breed yearly.
A dominant male will control a number of females and not allow other males to breed with them. Gestation lasts eight and a half months on average, with births taking place from mid-November to the first week of January. The calves weigh about 25 pounds at birth. They are able to stand and run shortly after birth – necessary for survival.
How to Hunt Black Wildebeest
Wildebeest hunting at first glance, looks fairly simple. The animal, sometimes nicknamed “the poor man’s Cape buffalo”, lives on the open plains in vast herds. Easy to locate, he is anything but easy to stalk. As the hunter tries to close with the black wildebeest, the animal will turn and run in the opposite direction. Sometimes it will run a short distance, then stop and look back. Sometimes it will run, jump, gyrate, spin, and leap into the air seemingly all at once. Sometimes it will do all this for no discernible reason whatsoever.
Expect shots to be long, up to 250-300 yards, unless the lay of the land allows stalking closer. Look for a fold in the land or some trees that will give some cover. Some success has been seen by approaching the black wildebeest at an angle, not looking directly at the animal, and seeming to walk parallel while actually closing.
Determining sex when hunting the black wildebeest will require good optics as the female and male are very similar. However, males have heavier horns than females. Rely on your Professional Hunter for advice. Using shooting sticks helps when shooting at black wildebeest distances.
Choice of caliber is very important for two reasons: distance and toughness of the animal. They can be dangerous when wounded. The minimum caliber should be a .270-7mm with a premium 150-grain bullet. A better choice would be any of the .300 Magnum – .338 Magnum family of cartridges, with a bullet weight between 180 and 225 grains.
7 Black Wildebeest Facts
Scientific name: Connochaetes gnou
Male weight: 250-425 pounds
Shoulder height: 4 feet
Gestation period: 8 1/2 months
Mating season: March-May
Horns: both sexes
Birth: 1 calf