2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Mammals

Blue Wildebeest
Blue Wildebeest
Conservation status
Lower risk
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Connochaetes
Lichtenstein, 1812

Connochaetes gnou
Connochaetes taurinus

The wildebeest ( pl.: wildebeest or wildebeests), also called the gnu ( pronounced /nu/ or /nju/), is a large hooved ( ungulate) mammal of the genus Connochaetes, which includes two species, both native to Africa: the Black Wildebeest or White-tailed Gnu (C. gnou), and the Blue Wildebeest or Brindled Gnu (C. taurinus). Gnus belong to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, and other even-toed horned ungulates.

Wildebeest grow to 1.15–1.4 metres (3'9"–4'7") at the shoulder and weigh between 150 and 250 kilograms. (330 and 550 pounds) They inhabit the plains and open woodlands of Africa, especially the Serengeti. Wildebeest can live for more than 20 years.


The principal foodstuff of wildebeest are grasses. The seasonal nature of the African grasslands forces wildebeest to make annual migrations. The main migration is in May, when around 1.5 million animals move from the plains to the woods; they return in November as summer rains water the plains.

Mating typically occurs after the rainy season (around March or April) over a three-week period, and this species achieves one of the highest success rates of impregnation of all mammals, possibly because of a high state of fitness following ample rain. Gestation requires about eight and one half months. The cows will calve in summer (December to January) on the plains. The calves can walk within minutes, and after a few days can keep up with the rest of the herd. After calving, the breeding season begins again. Dominant bulls defend territories marked with feces and pheromones produced by scent glands on the hooves. Subordinate males form bachelor herds.

Wildebeest are an important part of the plains ecosystem, since their dung fertilizes the soil, and their grazing and trampling encourage new growth. However, wildebeest stampedes are notorious for the amount of destruction they cause. A typical stampede often features approximately 500 wildebeest travelling at speeds of up to 50mph (80kph), and can last for 30 minutes. This animal is also an important food source for predators such as lions and hyenas.


Herd of Wildebeest
Herd of Wildebeest
Wildebeest in the Ngorongoro
Wildebeest in the Ngorongoro

The name wildebeest finds its origin in the Dutch and Afrikaans words wild beest which means "wild animal/beast". Although the name is derived from the Dutch language, the name wildebeest doesn't officially exist in the Dutch language. The Dutch name for wildebeest is gnoe (where the Dutch "g" is pronounced [†x]) (as in: Loch).

Afrikaanders (Afrikaans speaking South-Africans) have probably started using the phrase "Wildebeest" for the animal as they did not know any name for the animal when they first encountered it.

'Gnu' is from a Khoikhoi language (which pronounced the [g]), which likely imitated it from the grunt-type noise that a wildebeest makes.

The pronunciation of '[gnuː]' was popularized in English by the comic song ' The Gnu' by Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, in which all words starting with n have a g prepended: 'I'm a g-nu, I'm a g-nu, the g-nicest work of g-nature in the zoo.'

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