Alcelaphus buselaphus buselaphus


Kingdom Animalia

A female that lived in London Zoo from 4 October 1883 until 27 April 1897. Photographed by Lewis Medland in 1895. This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the European Union, Canada, the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Artiodactyla
Family Bovidae
Genus Alcelaphus
Species Alcelaphus buselaphus
Subspecies Alcelaphus buselaphus buselaphus
Authority (Pallas, 1766)
TEW Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2010
IUCN Status Extinct (EX), Year assessed: 2008
English Name Bubal Hartebeest, Northern Hartebeest
Dutch Name Bubal Hartebeest, Noordelijke Hartebeest
German Name Nordafrikanische Kuhantilope
Synonyms Antilope buselaphus Pallas, 1766; Antilope bubalis Pallas, 1767; Bubalis bubastis Blaine, 1914
Taxonomy While the Bubal Hartebeest was long regarded as a distinct species, it was treated by Ruxton and Schwarz (1929) as conspecific with various other Hartebeests (Harper 1945). Today it is regarded as the nominate subspecies of the Hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus.
Comments The word 'hartebeest' comes from Afrikaans (which originated from the Dutch language) and was originally called 'hertebeest'. The name was given by the Boers (the descendants of the Dutch-speaking pastoralists in what is today South Africa) who thought it resembled deer, which is called 'hert' in Dutch. 'Beest' is the Dutch word for the English 'beast'. 'Hartebeest' can be translated literally as 'deer beast' in English. (Llewellyn, 1936)

The Bubal Hartebeest stood nearly 122 cm (4ft) at the shoulder (Day 1981). Its colour was entirely pale reddish yellow (fawn), except the long hairs on the tail, which distally become blackish (Edwards 1996). The tips of the ears are brownish (Edwards 1996). It has an ill-defined patch of greyish on each side of the muzzle above the nostrils (Harper 1945). It had characteristic, lyre-shaped horns (Day 1981), which were of a pale horn colour as were its hoofs (Edwards 1996). The horns almost touched at the base and they had protuberant rings all along except for the smooth tips (Cabrera 1932). This animal's iris was yellow (Edwards 1996). Its fur was short and smooth, only a bit longer and curly around the preorbital glands and in the middle of the front and above the muzzle. (Cabrera 1932)

Range & Habitat The Bubal hartebeest was the most northern subspecies of the Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus) ranged once through Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia (Antelope Specialist Group 1996). It might also have occurred in the Middle East (Day 1981; Edwards 1996).

Image: map of North Africa with the reconstructed former distribution of the Bubal Hartebeest (in red), based on former records and distribution maps per country by Mallon and Kingswood (2001). Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.

In Tunisia, hartebeest once inhabited steppes of the Hauts Plateaux and nearby mountains. Lavauden (1926a) reported that bubal hartebeest was formerly distributed throughout sub-desert steppe and semi-forested habitats of North Africa, and preferred rocky habitats to dunes. In Tunisia the species also has been reported in mountainous woodland, plateau (hammada), salt flats, and sand dunes (Heim de Balsac 1936; Kacem et al. 1994), indicating that it utilised a wide variety of habitats. In Egypt it formerly inhabited oases, oasis-like depressions, and the Mediterranean coastal belt of the Western Desert. (Mallon & Kingswood 2001)

History & Population There is evidence that the hartebeest once was domesticated by the ancient Egyptians and used as a sacrificial animal (Kingdon 1990 and African Wildlife Foundation). Its horns in Egyptian tombs at Abadiyeh indicate its importance mythologically as well as a food source. (Day 1981) It was mentioned by Aristotle, Æschylus and Pliny. It is also mentioned in the Old Testament under the name 'Yachmur', incorrectly translated as 'fallow deer'. (Edwards 1996)

In Egypt it was formerly distributed over most of the Western Desert. Reported localities included the western Mediterranean coastal desert, El Bahrain, west of Lake Qarun (possibly Wadi El Raiyan), and Siwa (Osborn and Helmy 1980). Extensive searches of these and other localities provided no evidence of the recent presence of this species in Egypt (Saleh 1993). (Mallon & Kingswood 2001)

Very little information specific to Libya is available. Osborn and Helmy (1980) said that bubal hartebeest formerly occurred across most of the Western Desert including Libya, and their distribution map included a small area south of Al Jaghbub on the eastern border of Libya. Lavauden (1920) reported that some hartebeest were probably still present in Tunisia on the hammada between Bir-Aouïn and Ghadamès on the Libyan border. It has long been extinct in Libya according to Hufnagl (1972).

Bubal hartebeest was still widespread in the mountains of southern Tunisia and Algeria as late as 1870, but it was hunted to extinction in Tunisia at about the turn of the 20th century. What is presumed to be the last individual was shot in 1902 at the edge of the Great Eastern Erg, southwest of Tataouine (Lavauden 1926b). 

By the start of the 20th century it was only to be found in the southern mountains of Algeria and the Moroccan High Atlas. The large herds found north of the Atlas Mountains a hundred years earlier had vanished, leaving only fond memories in the minds of a few French colonels 'who shot them in the great battles of game, which massacres were organised in the early days of the French occupation'. But there was no lack of hunters to brave the harsh terrain and search out the last survivors. (Day 1981)

The last reliable report of a Bubal Hartebeest in Algeria was of one shot in 1902, though claims have been made of very much more recent sightings (Day 1981). It is said they became extinct in Algeria about 1930, surviving longest in the western part of the Saharan Atlas, near the border with Morocco (Kowalski and Rzebik-Kowalska 1991). 

Hartebeest were formerly common in Morocco, but numbers were severely reduced by hunting during the 19th century. Since then "the Bubal has retired far beyond the Atlas into the recesses of the desert, and has become a difficult animal to meet with" (Sclater and Thomas 1894). The last known specimens in Morocco were shot in 1925 in the upper Moulouya Valley, Eastern Morocco (Loggers et al. 1992), but few authorities credited the claim (Day 1981). 

The captive female which died in Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France,  on 9 November 1923 is usually held to have been the last of its kind. (Day 1981; Edwards 1996)

Extinction Causes The Bubal Hartebeest vanished from the Algerian Desert and Moroccan High Atlas Mountains due to hunting. (Day 1981)
Conservation Attempts

One of the ironies of the Bubal Hartebeest's disappearance was that, despite its desert habitat, it was very amenable to captivity for over 18 years. For example, an individual that died in Paris in 1916, had lived in captivity for almost 19 years. (Flower, 1931). To a modern conservationist this animal would have seemed an ideal subject for a rescue-breeding programme but the chance was missed. (Day 1981)

Reintroduction It has been proposed to reintroduce the hartebeest in the former distribution range of the Bubal Hartebeest, using Western Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus major). This subspecies is considered to be the closest relative of the extinct North African subspecies. In Egypt the hartebeest could be reintroduced to Bou-Hedma, Sidi Toui, and Chambi National Parks. Such action would be consistent with international guidelines for reintroductions. (Mallon & Kingswood 2001; IUCN/SSC/RSG 1995; Kacem et al. 1994; Dupuy 1967)
Museum Specimens Unknown. Do you know any museums that have this species in their collection? Contact this website!
Relatives Hartebeests were once the widest-ranging antelopes in Africa, but hunting, urban development and competition with domestic herds of cattle have limited their range and numbers. They are now found only in select portions of African countries such as Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania. Swayne's hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus swaynei) and the Tora hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus tora) are endangered because of small and continually declining populations. Three other subspecies are classified as lower risk by the IUCN, but will be rated threatened or endangered if ongoing conservation efforts are ended (Batty 2002). These other three subspecies are the Coke's Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus cokii), Lelwel Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus lelwel), and Western Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus major). The Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus caama) was previously also considered  a subspecies of Alcelaphus buselaphus, and classified as lower risk by IUCN (still as Alcelaphus buselaphus caama). (IUCN 2006; IUCN 2007) According to phylogeographic studies (Arctander et al., 1999; Flagstad et al., 2001) the Red Hartebeest is a distinct species of Hartebeest (Wilson and Reeder 2005).

Do you want to support the conservation of the enndangered Swayne's Hartebeest? Bryan Tomas, a nine-year old Dutch boy, has become KinderDIERekteur of Burger's Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands. If he receives the most votes, his project for the Swaybe's Hartebeest can win € 2.500,-. Vote for Bryan Tomas, by clicking here. See also:


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Alcelaphus buselaphus buselaphus

Bubal Hartebeest - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

References Antelope Specialist Group 1996. Alcelaphus buselaphus ssp. buselaphus. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 21 April 2007.

Arctander, P., C. Johansen, and M.-A. Coutellec-Vreto. 1999. Phylogeography of three closely related African bovids (Tribe Alcelaphini). Molecular Biology and Evolution, 16:1724-1739.

Batty, K. 2002. "Alcelaphus buselaphus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 21, 2005 at

Cabrera, A. (1932). Los Mamíferos de Marruecos. Trab. del Mus. Nac. de Cienc. Nat. de Madrid.- Ser. Zool., 57. p.: 334-336.

Day, D., 1981, The Doomsday Book of Animals, Ebury Press, London.

Dupuy, A. 1967. Répartition actuelle des espèces ménacées de l’Algérie. Bulletin de la Société des Sciences Naturelles Physiques du Maroc 47: 355–386.

Edwards, J. 1996. London Zoo from Old Photographs 1852-1914.

Flagstad, Ø., P. O. Syvertson, N. C. Stenseth, and K. S. Jakobsen. 2001. Environmental change and rates of evolution: The phylogeographic pattern within the hartebeest complex as related to climatic variation. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London B, 268:667-677.

Harper, F. 1945. Extinct and Vanishing Mammals of the Old World. Special Publication No. 12, American Committee for International Wild Life Protection, New York Zoological Park, New York 60, N.Y.

Heim de Balsac, H. 1936. Biogéographie des mammifères et des oiseaux de l’Afrique du nord. Bulletin Biologique France/Belgique 21 (supplément): 1–446.

Hufnagl, E.1972. Libyan mammals. The Oleander Press, Stoughton, Wisconsin and Harrow, England.

IUCN/SSC/RSG. 1995. Re-introduction guidelines. As approved by the 41st meeting of IUCN Council. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 21 April 2007.

IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>. Downloaded on 24 January 2008.

Kacem, S.B.H., Muller, H-P., and Wiesner, H. 1994. Gestion de la faune sauvage et des parcs nationaux en Tunisie: reintroduction, gestion, et amenagement. Direction Générale des Forêts and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, Tunis.

Kowalski, K.and Rzebik-Kowalska, B. 1991. Mammals of Algeria.Polish Academy of Sciences, Wroclaw.

Lavauden, L. 1920. La chasse et la faune cynégétique en Tunisie.Imprimerie Centrale, Tunis.

Lavauden, L. 1926a. Les vertébrés du Sahara.Imprimerie Albert Guenard, Tunis.

Lavauden, L. 1926b. Les gazelles du Sahara central. Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire Naturelle de l’Afrique du Nord 17:11–27.

Llewellyn, E.C. (1936) The Influence of Low Dutch on the English Vocabulary. Chapter XIV The Influence of South African Dutch or Afrikaans on the English Vocabulary. Oxford University Press, Londen. Available online.

Loggers, C., Thévenot, M., and Aulagnier, S. 1992. Status and distribution of Moroccan wild ungulates. Biological Conservation 59:9–18.

Mallon, D.P. and Kingswood, S.C. (compilers). (2001). Antelopes. Part 4: North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Global Survey and Regional Action Plans. SSC Antelope Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.viii + 260pp. Available online.

Osborne, D.J. and Helmy, I. 1980. The contemporary land mammals of Egypt (including Sinai). Fieldiana Zoology, New Series 5:1–579.

Ruxton, A.E., and Schwarz, E. 1929. On hybrid Hartebeests and on the distribution of the Alcelaphus buselaphus group. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1929, pp. 567-583, 2 pi., 1 map.

Saleh, M. 1993.Threats facing wildlife in Egypt. Pp.1–17 in: Proceedings of the International Conference on National Parks and Sustainable Development, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (editors). 2005. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), Johns Hopkins University Press, 2,142 pp. (Available online)

Last updated: 23th January 2010.

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