Commonly known among livestock farmers as the “ox of the wild,” the Dutch word eland translates to “elk.” Most animal lovers would describe this large mammal as an ox-like antelope. Populating the southern and eastern parts of Africa, the eland illustrates much of the San people’s rock art and was central to their spiritual ceremonies, believed to possess supernatural powers. With its renowned popularity in history and its ease of domestication, keep reading to learn more about this incredible animal of the wild.
The Eland: Commonalities and Hunting
The eland belongs to the “spiral-horned” subfamily, which is inclusive of the bushbuck and kudu. Known for its rich milk, succulent meat, and favoured as a source of leather, its population has declined over time due to hunting. A female eland can produce up to 7kg of milk on a daily basis, with its milk being higher in fat than regular cow’s milk.
The eland is also easily domesticated, adding to the reason why humans exploit them for the above-mentioned reasons. The eland is better suited to the harsh conditions of the African habitat than most cattle herds.
The height and size of this animal remains phenomenal. They can weight up to 900kg and measure up to 1.7m at the shoulder. Its female companion weighs generally half of the male’s weight.
Eland and its Diet
The eland is herbivorous, with most of their diet being made up of succulent leaves which are high in protein. Second to this are trees, shrubs, grass, seeds and forbs. This mammal gets most of its water source from the food it eats, but will drink water when it is available. The common eland is a crepuscular mammal, meaning, they hunt at dusk and dawn, resting throughout the hottest parts of the day.
Elands mate at any time, but it generally happens when they gather on lush grasslands or plains, and food is sufficient. The male eland will test the urine of the female, after which they are chased to see whether they are “in season.”
Some occasions may see the males partaking in horn-fighting. The dominant male will be allowed to mate, waiting 2 to 4 hours after which he can mount. Males are allowed to mate with numerous amounts of female eland.
Females birth their calf after 9 months, which sees the female leaving the herd to give birth and returning after up to 24 hours. The young form their own herd which remains close their mothers.
Other Fun Facts:
- A distinct clicking sound can be heard when you listen closely, thought to come from their hooves which separate and rejoin under their enormous weight.
- The famed hunter-gather San people believed the eland to be a powerful shaman, able to pass along great supernatural power when killed and left at a specific place. Its power was sourced by mixing the animal’s blood and fat, and using it to paint rock art with. Its power was thought to remain in the illustrations, with the locations of the rock art becoming sacred for journeys into the spirit realm.
- The eland is native to more than 17 African countries.
- 50% of its population lives on protected land.
- Elands can live up to 25 years in captivity.
- They are fantastic jumpers and can easily lift over a 2m fence.
A safari sighting of this incredible animal is a truly special moment, as they tend to be quite shy. If you would like to jump at the opportunity, consider a safari guide at the Kruger National Park, after which you can connect with your African roots at the luxurious, self-catering Yingwe lodge. Get in touch to plan your next African getaway.