Tragelaphus scriptus (Pallas, 1766)
Photo: Deon Furstenburg
|German:||Buschbock / Schirrantilope|
|seSotho:||Pabala / Tshoso|
IUCN Conservation Status:
Lower Risk, least concerned (LR/lc).
As its name implies, this shy antelope is a true bush dweller that spends up to 80% of its life beneath the bush canopy.
Taxonomic descriptions are still in dispute, though 16 subspecies had been identified (Moodley & Bruford, 2007)
• Tragelaphus scriptus sylvaticus, the southern bushbuck of South Africa (shoulder height 60-85 cm, mass 25-65 kg)
• T.s. roualeyni, the Limpopo valley bushbuck of southern Zimbabwe
• T.s. ornatus, the Chobe bushbuck mainly of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola (shoulder height 71 cm, mass 45.5 kg)
• T.s. massaicus, the Masai or East African bushbuck of Mozambique, Malawi and eastern Tanzania (shoulder height 75 cm, mass 56 kg)
• T.s. dianae, the great lakes bushbuck of western Tanzania
• T.s. haywoodi, T.s. dama, T.s. barkeri, the Victoria basin and highlands bushbuck of western Kenya and Uganda
• T.s. fasciatus, the Somali bushbuck of Somalia and eastern Kenya
• T.s. meneliki, the Arusi bushbuck of eastern Ethiopia (shoulder height 75 cm, mass 54.5 kg)
• T.s. powelli, the Shoan bushbuck of central Ethiopia (shoulder height 71 cm, mass 56 kg)
• T.s. decula, the Abyssinian bushbuck of western Ethiopia (shoulder height 66 cm, mass 45.5 kg)
• T.s. dodingae, the Sudan bushbuck of southern Sudan
• T.s. bor, the Nile bushbuck from the Nile River to Lake Chad (shoulder height 76-92 cm, mass 54-64 kg)
• T.s. phaleratus, the Congo bushbuck of Cameroon, Congo and The Democratic Republic of the Congo
• T.s. scriptus, the harnessed bushbuck of western Africa from Gambia and Senegal to Lake Chad (adult shoulder height 71 cm, mass 45.5 kg)
The South African sub-species is a mix of the southern bushbuck, the East African bushbuck and the Limpopo Valley bushbuck. Their ancestor is thought to be the holotype T.s. scriptus, a sub-species found in the rainforests of western Africa.
The bushbuck is a
medium-sized antelope. The southern bushbuck are markedly larger than
the northern sub-species. The Chobe bushbuck is 15-25% smaller. The
long hair, 25-32 mm, gives the coat a furry appearance. Sub-adult rams
are a deep chestnut brown that darkens with age to become almost black
on the back. Ewes are a light red-brown to a light fawn-brown. Mature
rams have a mane from the shoulders to the base of the tail. The tail
is short, furry and white beneath.
The areas around the nostrils, lips and chin are white with a distinctive white dot behind the eye and a horizontal white stripe on the front of the neck. A row of white dots and 1-3 short vertical white stripes on the flanks and scattered white dots across the hindquarters. Colouring differs throughout the distribution range. The prominence of the striped pattern decreases as the distribution of the bushbuck radiates from dense forest into savannah regions. The eastern African bushbuck becomes larger and has fewer stripes as its distribution extends further south. The southern bushbuck has only a few white dots.
Comparison To Man
Only rams carry horns. They are smooth with a keel on both the anterior and posterior edges and are a flat triangle when viewed in cross section. They turn towards the tip and almost complete the first turn of a spiral. The Rowland Ward quality of 38.1 cm can be reached at 3.5 years.
Photo: Deon Furstenburg
Abundant shade, cover for refuge and nutritious browse fodder are the essential elements of the habitat and are found mainly in thicket, closed woodland, riverine bush and forest. Tropical conditions with a moist climate provide the most suitable environment. Bushbuck can survive without drinking water provided that the diet contains sufficient moisture and that the habitat has ample shade. Bushbuck are vulnerable to drought stress and severe cold, and are sensitive to sudden environmental changes such as overgrazing, bush clearing or thinning and to trampled grass. Ecotones and degraded habitats are not suitable for bushbuck as they prefer pristine vegetation and a good veld condition.
Feeding & Nutrition
The bushbuck is a highly selective, concentrate feeder browsing predominantly on dicot forbs, shrubs and small trees. It selects both plant species and plant specific material, especially young growth from actively growing shoot ends. Bushbuck avoid eating mature leaves from the sides of older branches but rather bite off the entire shoot tip. The diet include flowers, fruit, berries, mushrooms, fungi and succulent roots dug out with the front feet. If available, small portions of the green leaves of medium height, sweet grasses (12-30 cm) are browsed throughout the year. The diet need to be highly nutritious, highly digestible, rich in protein and carbohydrate and low in crude fibre. During drought the declining nutritional value of the diet usually results in major bushbuck mortalities. In captivity bushbuck do well on a mixture of lucerne, antelope cubes, fresh browse, vegetables and fruit. They leave the bush at dusk to feed on pastures and cultivated vegetables and return at the approach of day. During the daylight hours they tend to remain under the cover of thicket.
Bushbuck are semi-solitary animals that occur either singly, in pairs, or in small groups consisting of one dominant mature ram, 2-3 adult ewes and 1-2 sub-adult youngsters. The dominant ram stays with a family group throughout the year. Family bonding is weak and individuals constantly exchange between adjacent groups. Groups usually avoid each other where home ranges overlap but temporary gatherings may occur on communal feeding grounds. Sub-adult rams are solitary and keep to the fringes of family groups.
|Southern Bushbuck information table
|Adult body weight
|Adult shoulder height
|Age of sexual Maturity
|Age of social adulthood (1st mating)
|1st Lamb born at
|Post maturity age (last mating)
|Gender ratio: natural (all ages)
|Gender ratio: production (all ages)
|Mating ratio: natural (adults)
|Mating ratio: production (adults)
|Re-establishment: absolute minimum number needed
|Re-establishment: smallest viable population size
|Spatial Behaviour: home range
|Spatial behaviour: territory range
|Large stock grazing unit (adult):
Dietary ratio (grass):
0.15 per animal
(10% of diet)
|0.11 per animal
(10% of diet)
|Browsing unit (adult):
Dietary ratio: (browse):
||0.33 per animal
(90% of diet)
|0.3 per animal
(90% of diet)
|Maximum stocking load
||0.25 ha per animal (at
450-550 mm annual rainfall)
|Minimum habitat size required
|Annual population growth
|Optimal annual rainfall
|Optimal vegetation structure:
Woody canopy cover:
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- Allen-Rowlandson, TS, 1986. An autecological study of bushbuck and common duiker in relation to forest management. Ph.D. thesis, University of Natal.
- Du Plessis, SF, 1969. The past and present geographical distribution of the Perrisodactyla and Artiodactyla in Southern Africa. M.Sc. Thesis, Univ. of Pretoria.
- Elder, WH. & Elder, NL, 1970. Social groupings and primate associations of the bushbuck. Mammalia 34;356-362.
- Furstenburg, D, 2000. Integrated kudu, duiker, bushbuck and boer goat production systems in Valley Bushveld: ecological interactions, processes & constraints. Pelea 19:134-141.
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- IUCN, 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Gland, Switzerland.
- Jacobson, NHG, 1974. Distribution, home range and behaviour patterns of bushbuck in the Lutope and Sengwa valleys, Rhodesia. J. sth Afr. Wildl. Mgmt. Ass. 4(2):75-83.
- Kingdon, J, 1989. East African Mammals; An atlas of evolution in Africa – Bovids, Vol 111D, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago.
- Morris, NE, 1973. A preliminary investigation of the bushbuck population in the Matsikiti area and its relevance to tsetse control hunting. M.Sc. thesis, University of Rhodesia.
- Moodley Y, Bruford MW (2007) Molecular Biogeography: Towards an Integrated Framework for Conserving Pan-African Biodiversity. PLoS ONE 2(5): e454. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000454
- Nowak, RM, 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World 6th edn. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
- Odendaal, PB, 1983. Feeding habits and nutrition of bushbuck in the Knysna forests during winter. S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res. 13:27-31.
- Odendaal, PB, & Bigalke, RC, 1979. Home range and groupings of bushbuck in the southern Cape. S. Afr. J. Wildl. Res. 9:96-101.
- Owen-Smith, RN, 1990. Demography of a large herbivore, the greater kudu in relation to rainfall. J. Anim. Ecol. 59:893-913.
- Owen-Smith, RN, 1994. Foraging responses of kudu to seasonal changes in food resources: elasticity in constraints. Ecology 75:1050-1062.
- Seymour, G, 2002. Ecological separation of greater kudu, nyala and bushbuck at Londolozi. CC Africa Ecological J. 4:137-145.
- Simpson, CD, 1972. Some characteristics of tragelaphine horn growth and their relationship to age in grearter kudu and bushbuck. J. Sth. Afr. Wildl. Mgmt. Ass. 2:1-8.
- Simpson, CD, 1973. Tooth replacement, growth and ageing criteria for the Zambezi bushbuck. Arnoldia Rhod. 6(6):1-25..
- Simpson, CD, 1974. Ecology of the Zambezi valley bushbuck. Ph.D. thesis, Texas A & M University.
- Skead, CJ, 1987. Historical Mammal Incidence in the Cape. Vol 1 & 2, Government Printer, Cape Town.
- Skinner, JD, & Chimba CT, 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 3rd edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Smithers, RHN, 1983. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, 1st edn. University of Pretoria, CTP Book Printers, Cape Town.
- VonKetelhodt, HF, 1976. Observations on the lambing interval of the Cape bushbuck. Zool. Afr. 11;221-225.
- Ward, R, 2006. Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game, 27th edn. Rowland Ward Publications, Johannesburg.
- Waser, P, 1975. Diurnal and nocturnal strategies of the bushbuck. E. Afr. Wildl. J. 13:49-63.
- Wilson, DE & Reeder, DM, 1993. Mammal Species of the World, 2nd edn. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
- Wilson, VJ, & Child, GFT, 1964. Notes on bushbuck from a tsetse fly control area in northern Rhodesia. Puku 2;118-128.