Bushbuck (Tragelaphus sylvaticus)


Bushbucks are remarkable antelopes with distinctive white spots located on each side of its light brown coat. 

The colour of their coats varies depending on the habitat where they are found, with the bushbucks living in denser forests having a much darker fur. 

Only the males have horns which are usually about 50 cm long and have a single twist at the base. These are very sharp and the males will use them to defend themselves against predators. Bushbucks will also let out a series of hoarse barks when they sense or smell danger. 

Bushbucks are basically solitary animals. Most group associations, except for a female and her latest young, are temporary and only last a few hours or days.

Contrary to other antelopes such as impalas for instance, they are not territorial and have small home ranges that overlap with the territories of other bushbucks. 

Their main predators include leopards, lions and hyenas and in South Luangwa they also fall prey to active wild dog packs and crocodiles. 

Bushbucks are herbivores and can be found grazing most of the day or nibbling on fallen fruits, flowers, herbs and shrubs. They absorb most of the water they need from their food and from the dew they find on leaves.

Bushbucks are not fast runners but they can swim and may jump as high as 1.8m in the air. 

They do not have a specific mating season and females may give birth any time of the year. Females can have ups to two litters per year. After about 4 months, the baby will accompany its mother in the search for food. Bushbuck can survive up ti 12 years in the wild. 

Unlike buffaloes and many other animals, bushbucks do not tolerate oxpeckers or other birds that help control insect pests. As a result, they often have numerous ticks on their head and neck.

Fun Fact: After their baby is born a mother will eat its placenta to erase the smells that may attract predators and will hide its young in bushes while she goes off foraging. When she visits and suckles it, she also eats its dung so no scent remains to attract predators.


Facts and pictures by Kelvin Zulu, Luangwa Wildlife Magazine photographer and expert safari guide. Article written by Luangwa Wildlife Magazine editor-in-chief and wildlife journalist Mahina Perrot. Contributions (articles and/or pictures) are welcome and can be sent to info@luangwawildlife.com. For advertising enquiries, email us at advertising@luangwawildlife.com.