Just the Facts: Wildebeest grow to 1.151.4 meters (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 southern Africa, especially the Serengeti. Wildebeest can live for more than 20 years.
What's for Dinner? 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.
All in the Family: The cows will calve in summer, 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. Dominant bulls defend territories marked with feces and pheromones produced by scent glands on the hooves. Subordinate males form bachelor herds.
Eco-friendly: Wildebeest are an important part of the plains ecosystem. Their dung fertilizes the ground and their eating and trampling encourage new growth. They are also an important food source for predators such as lions and hyenas.
What's in a Name? 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) (as in: Loch).
Afrikaanders (Afrikaans speaking South-Africans) may have started using the name "Wildebeest" for the animal as they had no other name for it when it was first encountered. '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 'gnu' 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.'
'Gnu' is from a Khoikhoi language, which likely imitated it from the grunt-type noise that a wildebeest makes.
Stampede! Wildebeest stampedes are notorious for the amount of destruction they cause when they occur. An average stampede often features approximately 500 wildebeest traveling at speeds in excess of 65mph, and can often last for about 30 minutes.
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