African Game Animals

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

A recent "Shooter's Coffee" discussion raised the question of what tags and licenses to purchase for an African hunt. Of course, different areas feature different game animals, so this is just a general guide. One of our attendees is considering an assignment in the region and thus may have the opportunity for some serious African hunting, so the question he raised was not just academic.

After batting the question around for a while, one dangerous "Big Five" animal and five other game species emerged as our most desired quarries. Only the buffalo legally (and sensibly!) requires a powerful medium or big bore rifle. Something between a 9.3x62mm Mauser and a .458 Lott, with a .375 H&H Magnum probably being the most popular buffalo caliber with visiting hunters. The other large animals on our list can reasonably be hunted with a powerful all-around rifle on the order of a .30-06 Springfield shooting bullets with a sectional density of about 0.270 or better. For better or worse, these are the animals we nominated.

Cape Buffalo

The only dangerous (Big Five) animal that sparked any serious interest was the Cape Buffalo. These burly brawlers are reasonably plentiful, have a bad attitude and long curved horns with a heavy boss. The coat is dark brown to black. Tags are comparatively affordable for a Big Five species. Average adult males of the species probably average about 1,000 pounds live weight, with very large individuals scaling up to 1,600 pounds, according to a survey done by Edward A. Matunas. A powerful rifle shooting a .366" diameter (or larger) bullet with a sectional density of 0.300+ is the way to go.


Perhaps the most prized of the African antelope trophies is the Kudu, a large, wary antelope around the size of the North American elk. Adult males of the species weigh about 500 pounds, with very large examples weighing up to 600 pounds on the hoof. They have a brownish coat with thin, vertical white stripes to help them blend into wooded terrain, a mane and impressive spiral horns that typically make two to three turns in adult males. (Females do not have horns.) Kudu prefer brushy or woodland habitat and are considered one of the most difficult African trophies to bag. Lesser Kudu are found in east Africa and Greater Kudu in east and south Africa.

Wildebeest (Gnu)

Sometimes called the poor man's buffalo, wildebeest are the most plentiful of southern Africa's game animals. They have a rather bovine appearance with curved horns reminiscent of buffalo, but they are actually an antelope species. The blue wildebeest is found in the more northern part of southern Africa and and the black wildebeest on the plains farther south, with considerable overlap between the two species. Adult male wildebeest weigh in the neighborhood of 500 pounds and very large examples as much as 600 pounds, so they are similar in size to zebra and kudu.

Gemsbok (Oryx)

Gemsbok/Oryx can be hunted in New Mexico (if you draw a permit), where they were introduced in 1969-1977 and now range free in the Tularosa basin. Gemsbok are an antelope species native to south and south-west Africa and are prized as trophies for their long, straight and deadly horns, which they use to fight off predators when they cannot flee. Both males and females have horns. Adult males weight between 400-530 pounds. They have tan bodies with rather spectacular markings, including black and white faces, white lower legs, black upper legs and lower belly. Gemsbok is one of the most prized African trophies.


Facial bumps (wattles) and large tusks, both more prominent in males, not to mention its rather sparse, bristly coat and a mane, make the warthog of southern Africa among the ugliest of animals, at least by human standards. Their habitat spreads across most of sub-Saharan Africa. This wild African pig is omnivorous, although they eat mostly grasses and roots. As with other pig species, their weight varies considerably. Adult boars can weigh anywhere from 130 to 330 pounds.


This swift, graceful and agile antelope is about the size of a North American pronghorn antelope, with adult males averaging about 100 pounds live weight and very large males weighing perhaps 120 pounds. Note that this is considerably smaller than the Chevrolet sedan of the same name. Males have long, lyre shaped horns, females do not. Their coat is tan, with a white belly. Impala are famous for their long bounds, of up to about 10 feet high and 30 feet in length.

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