Hirola; Hunter's hartebeest

Two Hirola Group Juvenile

Beatragus hunteri (P.L. Sclater, 1889)

French: L' Antilope Hirola; Le Bubale de Hunter
German: Hirola; Hunter-Leierantilope
Spanish: Hirola
Swahili: Hirola

Regional endemic subspecies

There are no endemic subspecies described.


Total length: 120 - 200 cm
Tail length: 30 - 45 cm
Shoulder height: 100 - 125 cm
Weight: 80 - 118 kg
Gestation: ~ 240 days

An antelope with unusual proportions and coloring, of medium weight, with long legs and a long body but a relatively short neck and a long face. The lyrate horns are not unlike those of the impala but have less flare and much heavier bases with pronounced annulations. The uniform sandy coloring gives way to a slaty grey in older males. The long tail and black-tipped ears are startlingly white, as are the "spectacles" around the eyes (patterns that emphasize the eyes are typical of some kob types but most antelopes have a dark "mask" which conceals the eyes). The structure of its large pre-orbital gland and muzzle differs from that of Topi and Kongoni.


S, SW Somalia?; NE Kenya (introduced to Tsavo NP).

The Hirola is endemic to north-east Kenya and south-west Somalia. Historical distribution is estimated to have covered ca. 17,900 km² in Kenya and ca. 20,500 km² in Somalia (Bunderson 1981, East 1999, Butynski in press). In Kenya, Hirola currently occur between Garsen, Bura and Galma Galla/Kolbio over an area of ca. 8,000 km² (Butynski 1999). Current status in south-west Somalia is not known, but its former range has been badly affected by prolonged civil and military conflicts that continued up to early 2007.
There is a small translocated population in Tsavo East National Park, outside the species’ natural range. This originated from a translocation of 30 animals from Garissa District conducted in 1963. It is thought that most of these perished soon after release and that the size of the “effective founder population” was only 11 to 19 animals (Butynski 1999). A further 10 animals were translocated to Tsavo East in 1996 (Hofmann 1996).


Females with young form groups numbering between 5 and 40, often attended by a single territorial male. Females separate from their group to give birth to a calf at the beginning of the short rains in October and November.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Category, ver 3.1: Critically Endangered A2cd


Ex situ programs/Collection plans:

EAZA RCP status:

  • not listed/not recommended

AZA RCP status:

  • In situ focus, ISF, Martha Fischer, Saint Louis Zoo

There are only two hirola in captivity outside Africa.

Recommendations/Conservation action

This is one of the most highly threatened antelopes in Africa. Recommendations for the long-term conservation of the Hirola in Kenya have been included in a conservation action plan (Magin 1996) and a conservation evaluation report (Butynski 1999). These recommendations are now part of the current conservation and management plan for the Hirola in Kenya (Hirola Management Committee 2004) and are being acted upon by the Kenya Wildlife Service, in conjunction with the Hirola Management Committee and local conservation NGOs. There is an urgent need to improve the level of management and protection of the one natural population of Hirola, particularly in the Arawale National Reserve and in the Galma Galla/Kolbio region of Kenya. Community conservation and anti-poaching activities must be established over a large portion of the remaining range, but insecurity for conservation workers is an extremely serious problem in this region. Consideration should be given to establishing protected areas at Galma Galla and Lag Dere, and to expanding the Tana Primate National Reserve to the east to include at least 300 km² of prime habitat for Hirola (Butynski 2000).


AZA Antelope and Giraffe TAG Regional Collection Plan (2008): 5th Edition, December 2008: 170 pp.

Butynski TM (2000): Taxonomy and distribution of the Hirola antelope, Gnusletter 2000 (12), 11-17.

Groves C & Grubb P (2011): Ungulate Taxonomy, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 211-212.

IUCN 2013: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/6234/0

King J, Craig I, Andanje S & Musyoki C (2011): They came, they saw, they counted. SWARA, Vol. 34, No. 7, 30-34.

Kingdon J (1997): The Kingdon Field Guide To African Mammals, Academic Press, San Diego.

Stuart C & Stuart T (2000): Field guide to the larger mammals of Africa. 2nd edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

Walker JF (2012): in kenya the ANTELOPES PLAY, Africa Geografic, Vol. 12/2012, 48-52.

Wilson DE & Reeder DM (2005): Mammal species of the world - A taxonomic and geographic reference. Third Ed., Vol. 1. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.





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