Common Eland

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tragelaphus oryx

  • SWAHILI NAME: Pofu; Mbunju

Common elands are fast runners with a nomadic lifestyle. Despite their bulky, cow-like build, they possess surprising stamina. Over the course of a day, a herd of elands can travel up to 35 miles (55 km) to find new browsing sites.

Common Eland

Common Eland



Daily Rhythm




Life span

In the wild: 14 to 17 years
In captivity: 25 to 26 years

Conservation Status

Lower risk


Male: 992.0 to 1190.5 lb (450 to 540 kg)
Female: 698.9 to 815.7 lb (317 to 370 kg)


Male: 5.2 to 5.9 ft (1.6 to 1.8 m) high at shoulder
Female: 4.1 to 5.0 ft (1.2 to 1.5 m) high at shoulder

Common Eland

Tracks and Scat

Tracks: Largest antelope track; sides are flattened and spread out.
Scat: Large, well-shaped, solid pellets

Common Eland tracks

Trivia Question

How do you tell male and female elands apart?


Female elands are smaller than males, and their dewlaps are much lighter and less noticeable. Both sexes have horns, though the male’s horns tend to be larger and thicker.

Social Structure

The size of a common eland herd varies from very small to more than 500 individuals, with groups constantly changing as elands wander in and out. Elands do not cultivate lasting relationships, and affiliations last only a few days. Still, elands are rarely alone. There are groups of adult males, females, and a mixture of both. The largest groups have adults and calves. As calves mature, they form new groups composed of members of the same sex. Males generally stay within these small, all-adult male herds, but females return to the larger groups to give birth. Within the large female and calf groups, calves bond more with one another than with their mothers. Even when the group spreads out to graze, young elands gather in a tight unit at the center.


Elands do not usually communicate vocally, though they do emit an alarm call similar to that of the bushbuck. Female elands also converse with their young through a series of clicks, grunts, and moos, to which calves reply with moans or whimpers. Males occasionally bleat during courtship or bellow during dominance displays. They also exhibit a threat display that includes a menacing stare and lunging with their horns.


Type of food and environment play important roles in the common eland’s behavior. In hotter areas, elands spend all day resting in the shade and do not forage until night. In cooler climates, they alternate during the day between resting and foraging. They are not territorial, and herds are continuously on the move. Young male elands spar by tangling their horns and pushing each other until one is victorious. Real fights, however, are rare and generally only occur between older males challenging each other for a female. During these matches, males don’t tangle their horns. Instead, they smash viciously into one another, often causing serious injuries. Male elands sometimes rub their faces in mud and cover their horns with vegetation and broken branches, which effectively alters their appearance and increases their odor. The reason for this behavior is unclear.


The common eland is often hunted for its meat. Population has declined, and habitat destruction threatens to further reduce its numbers, as grazing land disappears. With less available territory, elands become more susceptible to drought. However, new efforts have been made to introduce elands into game and private ranches in southern Africa.

Range & Habitat

Common elands are widely distributed throughout eastern and southern Africa, although they are thought to be extinct in Burundi and are dying out in Rwanda, Uganda, and Angola. Elands live mostly in areas that are protected or have limited human settlement.

Elands thrive in a wide variety of habitats, from mountain slopes to semi-deserts and woodlands. They cannot survive in deserts or open grasslands, as they need some protective cover.


Common elands are mixed feeders, meaning their choice of food changes depending on the season and the habitat. Their main diet consists of dry leaves, fruits, and herbs, as well as aloe leaves, but they also eat grass, especially in the wet season. Elands use their lips rather than their tongues to grab plants, and they use their horns to tug down high branches to get the leaves. Despite their large size, elands have a high metabolism and can survive for long periods without water. Their ability to adapt allows them to survive in a vast range of habitats—even in dunes, where dwarf shrubs are the only food.


When a dominant male eland decides to mate, he must first court his chosen female. He follows her carefully and places his head on her side or back until she stands still—a sign that she is ready to mate. During this courtship, the male drives off other males. He also displays flehmen, curling back his upper lip and inhaling with closed nostrils. After a gestation period of about 273 days, the female typically gives birth to a single calf. Elands mate year-round. Births, however, do occur at a set time of day, usually around sunrise. It’s very clear when a female eland is ready to give birth, as she becomes anxious and agitated, and eventually lies down on her side. Once her calf is born, the mother cleans it carefully. The calf is able to run within the first three to four hours. Young elands spend their first few days lying down away from the herd, and then join other calves in a nursery group. This unit is very close, and calves typically only leave it to nurse from their mothers.

Friends & Foes

Starvation due to drought is one of the biggest threats facing elands. Although they can often escape drought-ridden areas by migrating, the 1985 Kalahari drought eliminated 35 percent of the region’s eland population. Lions and African wild dogs are among its chief predators.

Population in Kenya & Beyond

An estimated 130,000 common elands live in the wild. The largest populations are in Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Kenya, which hosts approximately 13,000 of these ungulates.

Common Eland

Did you know?

Elands have been domesticated for milk production. They can survive without water in areas where cattle can’t.