Lechwe Waterbuck

(Kobus leche)


Lechwe Waterbuck IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The Lechwe is a medium-sized antelope which is well adapted to wetlands. Males weigh about 103-118 kg, with a head-body length of 161-169 cm. Females are smaller and lighter (about 25 %) than the males. The hindquarters are higher than forequarters. The legs are long and slender with bare pasterns. The hooves are pointed and distinctly elongated. The dew-claws are well-developed. The tail is fairly long, coloured like the body above and white below, the tip with a large black tuft.

The head is characterized by a small naked rhinarium, the absence of infraorbital glands, and white marks on muzzle, chin and around the eyes. Horns are present only in males. They are slender, lyre-shaped and heavily ridged, sweeping backwards and outwards, the tips curving forwards. The horn length is 60-83 cm.


The coat hairs are long and rough. The colour is either bright chestnut or blackish on the upper parts. The white of the under parts extends to the inside of the limbs and to the lower margin of the neck, it is sharply set off from the colour of the upper parts. There are conspicuous black markings on the legs, varying in size according to subspecies, and a white band above the hooves.

Lechwes are social animals living usually in groups of up to 30 animals, but may congregate to much larger herds. During the mating period, males are territorial keeping small territories for mating. Ewe herds move freely between ram territories. After a pregnancy period of 7.5 months (about 225 days) usually one singly calf is born, which weighs about 5 kg at birth. The calves remain hideden for 2 to 3 weeks. They are weaned at 6-7 months of age.

Lechwes are grazers feeding mainly on semi-aquatic grasses, but also sour-grasses and herbs are eaten.

There are three extant subspecies: The Kafue lechwe (kafuensis) and the Black lechwe (smithemani), which both inhabit parts of Zambia, and the Red lechwe (leche) which has a wider distribution.

Did you know?
that the lechwe is the second most aquatic antelope after the sitatunga? They are good swimmers, but prefer to wade while walking on boggy ground.


Name (Scientific) Kobus leche
Name (English) Lechwe Waterbuck
Name (French) Cobe lechwe
Name (German) Litschi-Wasserbock
Name (Spanish) Cobo de Lechwe
Local names Afrikaans: Basterwaterbok
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Zimbabwe and adjoining areas in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zaire
Habitat Wetlands
Wild population Red Lechwe: 98.000; Kafue Lechwe 78.000; Black Lechwe: 36.000; Upemba Lechwe: less than 1.000; Robert Lechwe: extinct (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 663 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo

Lechwe Waterbuck


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Requirement 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Road transport (according to the South African Standard SANS 10331): Transport cows and calves in mass crates. Tranquillize adults. Transport bulls separately in compartments in a mass crate under tranquillization. If crated individually, the crates should be placed transversely on the transport vehicle, so that the heads of the animals face outwards.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Duncan Wright

Why do zoos keep this animal

The lechwe is of educational interest because of its adaptation to aquatic life and its intersting social life. Being a very ndsome antelope, it is also a good ambassador species for the conservation of freshwater habitats.

There is an International Studbook and North American zoos run a cooperative breeding programme.