The defassa waterbuck is a fairly solid animal and is easily recognisable by its thick, shaggy, dark brown rat, and white inner thighs. It is fairly common and easily seen in Nairobi and Nakuru national parks, and in Masai Mara. A second variety, the ringed waterbuck (also Kobus ellipsiprymnus), so-called because of the white ring around its rump, is also seen in Marsabit, Tsavo and Amboseli parks. Both varieties have white facial and throat markings.
Only the males have horns, and these curve gradually outwards then grow straight up to a length of about 75 cm. As you might expect from the name, waterbuck are good swimmers and readily enter the water to escape from predators. Their habitat is always close to water, and males have marked territories by the water’s edge. Females and younger males tend to wander at random through male territories. Herds are small and usually consist of cows, calves and one mature bull — the other bulls live in small groups apart from the herd.
The bulk of the waterbuck’s diet is grass but it does eat some of the foliage of trees and bushes.
Sexual maturity is reached at just over one year, although a male will not become the dominant bull in the herd until around five years of age. Waterbuck are usually only preyed on when other food is scarce. The reason being that when mature the flesh is tough and has a distinct odour. Predators such as lion, leopard and hunting dogs go for the young calves and females.