Horns come in all shapes and sizes and so it is that we dedicate a blog to the sometimes weird and wonderful shapes that not only distinguish each animal but that also act as a very important mechanism to defend and ward off unwanted intruders…
Kudu – Spirals
The large wide spiralling horns of a male kudu make it easy to identify. The horns have become an iconic symbol, even used on the South African National Parks (SANParks) logo. Their design inspired the ‘Kuduzela’ a kudu horn shaped vuvuzela that became a popular feature in the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Only males have horns and while the large horns are certainly impressive they are not always ideal for combat. Their horns have been known for locking and causing animals to struggle to free themselves when fighting.
Related: Bushbuck and nyala are closely related to the kudu and all belong to the Tragelaphus family and also sport a spiral shaped crown. Their horns however are much smaller than the majestic horns of a kudu bull.
Buffalo – Hooks
Unlike most animals the horns of buffalo and wildebeest grow outwards forming two mighty hooks on either side of their head. The hooks make an excellent defense especially against predators such as lions. You may have seen video footage of buffalos that have used their hooks to fling lions into the air, protecting the members of their herd. Under threat, buffalos group together to form a protective shield to ward off and intimidate the opposition.
Distinguishing features: The horns rise from heavy bosses and spread out and downwards, curving up and inwards with a sharp hook at the edge.
Click here to watch an incredible YouTube video of a buffalo and lion fight.
Impala – The Twist
Impalas are a common resident of the bushveld and live in abundance at Londolozi. Skittish animals, they are always on the look out for potential threats and move in herds as a form of protection. Horns are only found on males. Other antelope with twisted horns include the springbok, reedbuck, hartebeest, bontebok and blesbok.
At the beginning of winter as the days get shorter and the nights longer, impalas start to rut. This is when the impala rams’ testosterone levels skyrocket causing them to fight for territory and dominance over females. The loud almost barking sound can be heard as it reverberates across the bushveld. It’s not uncommon to see impala rams locking horns as they compete between one another.
Klipspringer – Spikes
The short straight spikes of a klipspringer, duiker, grysbok and oribi are no match to their fellow antelope but while they may look like they would have little effect in a fight, the antelope use these to defend territory and keep intruders out. Both males and females use their horns for this purpose although the female grey duiker is an exception having no horns.
Waterbuck – Curved
The horns of a waterbuck are curved and point upwards. Horns are only found on male waterbuck. This curve is also very distinctive in the shape of the horns of a gemsbok. We don’t find gemsbok at Londolozi but the long horns are an unmistakable feature of the Kgalagadi where they live in abundance.
Distinguishing features: Waterbuck horns are long and ridged, sweeping outwards and slightly back in a wide arc formation.
Written by: Kate Collins
Photographed by: James Tyrrell, Mike Sutherland, Talley Smith and Phil Judd.
Which of these horns to you most admire and why? Share your thoughts with us below.