The waterbuck, despite the name, is not as much at home in water as is the lechwe or sitatunga. Though it will seek shelter there to elude predators.
The waterbuck is one of the few African antelope to have thick, shaggy hair. Its brown-gray coat emits a waterproofing secretion. Found in East Africa, there are two species, the common waterbuck and the defassa waterbuck, with the only difference being a white pattern on the rump. The common waterbuck has a white ring around a dark rump, while the defassa has white patches on both sides of the rump.
The waterbuck is a large, robust animal, with a mature bull weighing typically weigh 450 –600 lbs. and standing 50 inches at the shoulder.
Waterbucks have a brownish-grey shaggy coat of coarse hair that turns progressively darker with age. There are white patches around the nose and mouth and above the eyes, and there is a white patch on the throat. Waterbucks have large rounded ears.
Only the bulls have long, forward curving horns, which are heavily ringed and can as reach 38 inches long. Though horns over 30 inches are considered a prized trophy. The horns are widely spaced and curve gracefully back and up. Their horns are sometimes used with fatal results when bulls fight over territories.
The waterbuck is a herd antelope. Dominant bulls establish and defend territories, while cows, calves and young bulls congregate in herds of up to 25 individuals. Waterbucks do not migrate, so territories are usually held year round.
The main predators of the waterbuck are hyenas, lions and leopards, but crocodiles, wild dogs and cheetahs can also take waterbuck.