The Lechwe is an antelope of medium size, measuring 35-40 inches at the shoulder and average live weight being 220 pounds. The lechwe’s hind legs are longer than those the front allowing them to able to run in the swamps and muddy areas where they occur. By living in these areas they are protected from most predators. These animals are found in herds that can number into the hundreds. Lechwe uses knee-deep water as protection from predators, their legs secrete an oily substance making them waterproof and allows them to move swiftly through the water. There are four subspecies of the Lechwe which are the Red, Kafue, Black and the Nile Lechwe.
The Red Lechwe gets its name from its red-brown coat and can be hunted in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, and Angola. The Okavango Delta in Botswana has over the years produced some of the top-scoring lechwe to date, however, since the hunting in Botswana has been put on hold this animal cannot be hunted over there. The Red lechwe was introduced to game ranches in South Africa with great success and now occurs in stable populations with some world-class trophies being taken.
The Kafue Lechwe is endemic to the Kafue flats of Zambia. These animals occur in large herds in this area and seeing a herd of 300 members plus is not uncommon. These animals are very similar in appearance to the red lechwe, they do however only naturally occur on the Kafue flats region.
Black lechwe inhabit the flood plains of the democratic republic of the Congo through Zambia and into northern areas of Botswana, these animals portray black shades over and above their red coat and hence the name Black Lechwe.
The Nile Lechwe which is found on the plains of Sudan and southwestern areas of Ethiopia is actually highly endangered and cannot be hunted in Ethiopia. However, there are few game ranchers in South Africa that have introduced these animals in an effort to and save the species.
The males are solitary throughout the year and only join herds during times of mating, although often make bachelor herds of their own. The lechwe’s hooves are elongated and tend to spread out sideways, another adaption to allow them to be able to live in areas with muddy ground.
The males legs are darker than those of the females. Only the Male lechwe carry horns, their horns are straight whilst juvenile but develop their lyre shape with heavy ridges from the age of 2 years. The lechwe is active from the time just before sunrise until early morning, whilst some members may be active throughout the day. During the hottest time of the day, these animals’ are usually found resting in drier parts of their habitat. At nightfall, the lechwe will move and graze along the water’s edge and if bothered the herd will scatter in all directions. When on the move, a lechwe lowers its head with the muzzle pointing forward making the neck almost parallel with the ground.
When the water levels are high, adult males are very territorial and usually found with female herds. These males will fight with other males in the area to gain dominancy and often chase each other for kilometers at a time. The female herds move around freely amongst territories.
The practice of hunting lechwe in Africa in the areas where they occur is not as easy as it may seem. Choosing the right one to take in a herd of several hundred members may be very frustrating. Following a set of horns in the herd while the animals crisscross and move about can be difficult, never mind the number of eyes and noses you have to outsmart. lechwe are however very relaxed and are not particularly nervous animals, this allows a competent hunter to approach and get into shooting distance relatively easily.
A good trophy will have horns with thick bases. The male’s horns will flare out sideways before starting the forward curve. It is important that the tips are pointing forwards in order to score well.
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