The Gnu is the oddest antelope in Africa. It has a tail like a horse, a pony's hindquarters and a goat's beard. Its head and shoulders look like a buffalo's and its muzzle is as flat as a moose's.

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla

Family: Bovidae

Genus: Connochaetes

The gnu, also known as the wildebeest, is a striking animal native to Africa. It has a lifespan of up to 20 years, and is constantly on the move. Gnu are not the fastest of animals, and are therefore important prey for lions, hyenas, and other predators.

More than one type of freak - Gnu species

Standing 45-55 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 350 and 550 pounds, the brindled gnu (blue wildebeest - Connochaetes taurinus) is native to southern and eastern Africa.

Brindled gnu are known to travel in herds ranging from 20 to thousands of beasts. They are often to be found grazing with zebras, possibly due to their similar colouring - brindled gnu have bluish-grey fur streaked with brown.

Slightly smaller, but more common is the white-bearded gnu (Connochaetes taurinus albojubatus). This species is to be found as far North as Kenya, with 100000 in the Serengeti and about 1.5 million in the wild at the last major census in 1950.

There is one other species of gnu - the white-tailed gnu (black wildebeest - Connochaetes gnou), but it almost extinct in the wild, although its numbers are increasing in parks and reserves.

Good grass is hard to find - Eating habits

Gnu are purely herbivorous, preferring short grasses, but they will eat long grass during the dry season. They tend to drink twice a day. They are obviously connoisseurs of good herbal cuisine, as they annually travel up to 800 miles in search of fresh pasture. In these mass exoduses, up to 1 million beasts may be found, not to mention other animals, such as zebra and Thomson's gazelles that tag along. In addition to this, the gnu moves around throughout the year in search of that perfect cud.

'Hey baby, I'm horny' - Sexual reproduction

Gnu females are sexually mature after 2 and a half years. Males are mature after 3 or 4 years. Mature beasts may be distinguished by their peculiar horns, present on both sexes. Mature adult males are also noticeable for their deep grunts, sounding like croaking frogs. A cow's gestation period is 8 and a half months, producing one calf. The vast majority are born at the start of the rainy season, and are able to stand up a few minutes after birth. After a few weeks, they are able to keep up with the herd.

No fat blokes - Chauvinism turned upside-down

Gnu herds are led by older females, but protected by strong bulls. Any males that cannot find a mate are forced to form bachelor herds, which are chased off by leading bulls from a herd if they come too close.

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