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Sparring, mating, parent and offspring behaviour

Waterbuck bulls herd females into their areas and regularly monitor their reproductive status by sniffing and Flehmen of their genitals and urine. If a female is on heat the bull courts her by rubbing the base of his horns and his face along her back (as illustrated in the above image), and tapping between her hind legs with his forelegs. If the cow is receptive to the bulls advances she will stand in a hunched up position with her tail held to one side and copulation will take place.

Male dominance is a process which begins at a young age when play sparring establishes who is the stronger and most assertive individual. Sparring progresses from play to more serious business as the animals approach maturity. Adult bulls that are intent on establishing dominance will begin to spar more aggressively with horn locking, lunging and attempts to gore a potential rival in the flank. If an intruder is intent on displacing a territorial bull fights can become fierce and deaths in waterbuck bulls from horn wounds are not uncommon.

Parent offspring behavior Young waterbuck are one of Africa’s most endearing little creatures and look exactly the same as adults. After a gestation period of approximately 280 days (Spinage, 1982) cows leave the herd to give birth to a single calf. There have been reports of twins. She leaves the calf hidden in dense cover and visits it periodically throughout the day to feed and groom the new arrival. She calls the calf by snorting or bleating as it looks for a new place to hide each day. The calf will join the herd after about a month and are weaned at an age of six to eight months. Young females tend to stay in the parent herd whereas young males are chased out of the herd by territorial bulls after weaning.