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Red lechwe (Kobus leche leche) male.jpg
male K. l. leche
Nkasa Rupara National Park, Namibia
CITES Appendix II (CITES) [2]
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Kobus
K. leche
Binomial name
Kobus leche
Gray, 1850
Kobus leche range map.png
Distribution range of lechwe

Onotragus leche

The lechwe, red lechwe, or southern lechwe (Kobus leche) is an antelope found in wetlands of south-central Africa.



The lechwe is native to Botswana, Zambia, southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, northeastern Namibia, and eastern Angola, especially in the Okavango Delta, Kafue Flats, and Bangweulu Wetlands. The species is fairly common in zoos and wild animal farms.


Adult lechwe typically stand 90 to 100 cm (35 to 39 in) at the shoulder and generally weigh from 50 to 120 kg (110 to 260 lb), with males being larger than females. They are golden brown with white bellies. Males are darker in colour, but exact hue and amount of blackish on the front legs, chest and body varies depending on subspecies. The long, spiral horns are vaguely lyre-shaped and borne only by males. The hind legs are somewhat longer in proportion than in other antelopes to ease long-distance running on marshy soil.


Lechwe are found in marshy areas where they are an important herbivore of aquatic plants. [3] They use the knee-deep water as protection from predators. Their legs are covered in a water-repellant substance which allows them to run quite fast in knee-deep water. Lechwe are diurnal. They gather in herds which can include many thousands of individuals. [4] Herds are usually all of one sex, but during mating season they mix. [5]



Kafue lechwes (K. l. kafuensis) where the male has more black to the front legs and chest than the red and Upemba lechwes, but less than the black lechwe that also has some blackish to the side of the body Kob Antelope.jpg
Kafue lechwes (K. l. kafuensis) where the male has more black to the front legs and chest than the red and Upemba lechwes, but less than the black lechwe that also has some blackish to the side of the body

Four subspecies of the lechwe have been recognized. [6] [7]

In addition, the Upemba lechwe (Kobus anselli) and the extinct Cape lechwe (Kobus venterae) are also considered subspecies by some authorities (as Kobus leche anselli and Kobus leche venterae). [8] [9]

Although related and sharing the name "lechwe", the Nile lechwe (K. megaceros) is consistently recognized as a separate species. [7]


Lechwe mate during rain seasons of November to February. They have a gestation period of seven to eight months so a majority of calves are born from July to September. [10] Although rare, hybrids between lechwe and waterbuck have been observed. [11]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Okavango Delta</span> River delta in Botswana

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a swampy inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough at an altitude of 930–1,000 m in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. All the water reaching the delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired and does not flow into any sea or ocean. Each year, about 11 cubic kilometres (2.6 cu mi) of water spreads over the 6,000–15,000 km2 (2,300–5,800 sq mi) area. Some flood waters drain into Lake Ngami. The area was once part of Lake Makgadikgadi, an ancient lake that had mostly dried up by the early Holocene.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sitatunga</span> Species of swamp-dwelling antelope

The sitatunga or marshbuck is a swamp-dwelling antelope found throughout central Africa, centering on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, parts of Southern Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Ghana, Botswana, Rwanda, Zambia, Gabon, the Central African Republic, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. The sitatunga is confined to swampy and marshy habitats. Here they occur in tall and dense vegetation as well as seasonal swamps, marshy clearings in forests, riparian thickets and mangrove swamps.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Common tsessebe</span> Subspecies of the subfamily Alcelaphinae in the family Bovidae

The common tsessebe or sassaby is the southern, nominate subspecies of Damaliscus lunatus, although some authorities have recognised it as an independent species. It is most closely related to the Bangweulu tsessebe, sometimes also seen as a separate species, less to the topi, korrigum, coastal topi and tiang subspecies of D. lunatus, and less to the bontebok in the same genus. Common tsessebe are found in Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, and South Africa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hartebeest</span> Grassland antelope

The hartebeest, also known as kongoni or kaama, is an African antelope. It is the only member of the genus Alcelaphus. Eight subspecies have been described, including two sometimes considered to be independent species. A large antelope, the hartebeest stands just over 1 m at the shoulder, and has a typical head-and-body length of 200 to 250 cm. The weight ranges from 100 to 200 kg. It has a particularly elongated forehead and oddly-shaped horns, a short neck, and pointed ears. Its legs, which often have black markings, are unusually long. The coat is generally short and shiny. Coat colour varies by the subspecies, from the sandy brown of the western hartebeest to the chocolate brown of the Swayne's hartebeest. Both sexes of all subspecies have horns, with those of females being more slender. Horns can reach lengths of 45–70 cm (18–28 in). Apart from its long face, the large chest and the sharply sloping back differentiate the hartebeest from other antelopes. A conspicuous hump over the shoulders is due to the long dorsal processes of the vertebrae in this region.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nile lechwe</span> Species of antelope

The Nile lechwe or Mrs Gray's lechwe is an endangered species of antelope found in swamps and grasslands in Sudan and Ethiopia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Puku</span> Species of antelope

The puku is a medium-sized antelope found in wet grasslands in southern Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and more concentrated in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Nearly one-third of all puku are found in protected areas, zoos, and national parks due to their diminishing habitat.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kafue National Park</span>

Kafue National Park is the largest national park in Zambia, covering an area of about 22,400 km². It is one of the largest parks in Africa and is home to 152 different species of mammals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bangweulu Wetlands</span>

The Bangweulu Wetlands is a wetland ecosystem adjacent to Lake Bangweulu in north-eastern Zambia. The area has been designated as one of the world's most important wetlands by the Ramsar Convention and an "Important Bird Area" by BirdLife International. African Parks began managing Bangweulu in partnership with Zambia's Department of National Parks and Wildlife with the establishment of the Bangweulu Wetland Management Board in 2008.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Slaty egret</span> Species of bird

The slaty egret is a small, dark egret. It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies. It is classified as Vulnerable, the biggest threat being habitat loss.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grant's zebra</span> Species of zebra

Grant's zebra is the smallest of the seven subspecies of the plains zebra. This subspecies represents the zebra form of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.

<i>Damaliscus lunatus</i> Species of the subfamily Alcelaphinae in the family Bovidae

Damaliscus lunatus is a large African antelope of the genus Damaliscus and subfamily Alcelaphinae in the family Bovidae, with a number of recognised geographic subspecies. Some authorities have split the different populations of the species into different species, although this is seen as controversial. Common names include topi, sassaby, tiang and tsessebe

The Upemba lechwe is a subspecies of antelope found only in the Upemba wetlands in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was described in 2005, after analysis of 35 museum specimens collected in 1926 and 1947–8. Some authorities treat the Upemba lechwe as a species, K. anselli.

The Kafue Flats are a vast area of swamp, open lagoon and seasonally inundated flood-plain on the Kafue River in the Southern, Central and Lusaka provinces of Zambia. They are a shallow flood plain 240 km long and about 50 km wide, flooded to a depth of less than a meter in the rainy season, and drying out to a clayey black soil in the dry season.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wildlife of Zambia</span>

The wildlife of Zambia refers to the natural flora and fauna of Zambia. This article provides an overview, and outline of the main wildlife areas or regions, and compact lists of animals focusing on prevalence and distribution in the country rather than on taxonomy. More specialized articles on particular groups are linked from here.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zambezian flooded grasslands</span>

The Zambezian flooded grasslands is an ecoregion of southern and eastern Africa that is rich in wildlife.

The biomes and ecoregions in the ecology of Zambia are described, listed and mapped here, following the World Wildlife Fund's classification scheme for terrestrial ecoregions, and the WWF freshwater ecoregion classification for rivers, lakes and wetlands. Zambia is in the Zambezian region of the Afrotropical biogeographic realm. Three terrestrial biomes are well represented in the country . The distribution of the biomes and ecoregions is governed mainly by the physical environment, especially climate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kafue lechwe</span>

The Kafue lechwe is a subspecies of the southern lechwe. It is endemic to the Kafue Flats, Zambia. It is listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable.

Roberts' lechwe or Kawambwa lechwe is an extinct subspecies of lechwe. It was found around Kawambwa, Zambia.

The Bangweulu tsessebe is a population and possible taxon of Damaliscus lunatus, which are large African antelopes of the grasslands. This population is presently restricted to northern Zambia in the wild, although it was recorded as occurring in neighbouring southernmost Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1940s. Also seen as the northernmost population belonging to the nominate southern sassaby subspecies, in 2003 it was described as a new species, only to be downgraded to a subspecies a few years later. Its taxonomic status is unclear as of 2021. As an individual sassaby of this taxon cannot be clearly distinguished from populations to the south, the taxon was defined using an experimental suite of statistical techniques applied to a sample set, based on multivariate analysis, and recognised under an experimental new taxonomy. Nominate sassaby antelopes become progressively darker on average in the northern populations, and on average have a slightly thicker horns at the base of the skull, but those of northern Zambia are the darkest and with the most robust horns on average.

The Cape lechwe, or Venter's lechwe, is an extinct species similar to the red lechwe, Kobus leche. It was described by Robert Broom from a frontlet and horn core from Haagenstad, which Broom believed to be an intermediate form between lechwe and waterbuck. However others have failed to find justification for separating the species from Kobus leche.


  1. IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2017). "Kobus leche". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2017: e.T11033A50189021. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T11033A50189021.en . Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. "Appendices | CITES". cites.org. Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  3. Franceschini, M. Celeste; Murphy, Kevin J.; Moore, Isabel; Kennedy, Michael P.; Martínez, Fedra S.; Willems, Frank; De Wysiecki, M. Laura; Sichingabula, Henry (29 July 2020). "Impacts on freshwater macrophytes produced by small invertebrate herbivores: Afrotropical and Neotropical wetlands compared". Hydrobiologia. 847 (17): 3931–3950. doi:10.1007/s10750-020-04360-5. S2CID   220843360.
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  7. 1 2 Groves, C.; Grubb, P. (2011). Ungulate Taxonomy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 190–1. ISBN   978-1-4214-0093-8.
  8. IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2017). "Kobus leche ssp. anselli". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2017: e.T136937A50198198. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T136937A50198198.en . Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  9. Brain, C. K. (1983). The Hunters Or the Hunted?: An Introduction to African Cave Taphonomy. American Bar Foundation. p. 173.
  10. Newell, T. 1999. "Kobus leche" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 06, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Kobus_leche/
  11. "Antelope hybrid in the wilds of northern Botswana". Africa Geographic. 19 May 2016. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020.