Eland Hunting in Africa

Interesting facts about the Eland

  • They are great jumpers, despite their huge size, and can clear a seven-foot fence from a standing start.
  • The word “eland” originates from the Dutch for elk.
  • Listen closely and you’ll hear a distinct clicking sound as they approach. This is thought to come from the Eland’s hooves, which splay apart and click back together under the animals’ great weight.
  • Eland will stay and face predators rather than taking flight. They will group together with the calves in the center and will present the offending animal with a wall of kicking legs.
  • Eland will rarely fight. They avoid combat by weighing each other up with the smaller one conceding its ground straight away. If they do not the dominant bull will give the inferior bull a “look” which should move it on.
  • Adult eland like their own space and do not tolerate other eland coming within six foot of them.
  • Eland conserve water by not sweating to keep cool. Instead they allow their body temperature to rise during the day and lose the heat during the cooler nights. This practice can save a 500kg eland five liters of water.
  • It was both food and spiritual inspiration to the prehistoric hunter-gatherer peoples of southern Africa. And it features prominently in rock- and cave-art across the region. Today place names such as Elands fountain and surnames such as Mpofu (‘eland’ in Zulu) suggest how central to the region’s culture this antelope once was.
  • The giant eland is also called ‘Lord Derby's eland’ in honor of Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby. It was first seen in England between 1835 and 1851. At that time, Lord Derby sent botanist Joseph Burke to South Africa to collect animals for his museum.
  • The common eland is better adapted than cattle to the African environment, and is easily domesticated. It has been farmed for its meat and milk in both South Africa and Russia. A female can produce up to 7kg of milk per day, which is richer in fat than cow's milk.
  • There are two species. The first is the giant eland is slightly the larger of the two, and occurs in Central and Western Africa. The second is the more familiar, common eland. It occurs in east and Southern Africa.

The difference between a male and female eland

Mature males are larger and have a very prominent dewlap on the throat. Mature males also have a darker coat sometimes with a blueish tinge. Males have dense fur on the forehead while females do not.

Eland male with a dark coat and bluish greyish tinge and prominent dewlap

Eland Male

Eland male with a dark coat and smaller female with lighter coat

Eland female and young in the foreground

Background information for African Eland Hunting

Elands prefer to live in semi-arid areas that contain many shrub-like bushes, and often inhabit grasslands, woodlands, sub-desert, bush, and mountaintops. Elands do, however, avoid forests, swamps and deserts. Common eland form herds of up to 500 animals, but are not territorial.

Common elands are spiral-horned antelopes. Females are smaller than the males. Females weigh 660–1,320 pounds, and stand 49–60 inches at the shoulder. Bulls weigh 882–2,077 pounds and stand 59–72 inches at the shoulder. Male elands can weigh up to 2,200 pounds.

Apart from a rough mane, the coat is smooth. Females have a tan coat, while the coats of males are darker, with a bluish-grey tinge. Bulls may also have a series of vertical white stripes on their sides. As males age, their coat becomes greyer. Males have dense fur on their foreheads and a large dewlap on their throats.

Both sexes have horns with a steady spiral ridge (resembling that of the bushbuck). The horns of males are thicker and shorter than those of females. Males use their horns during rutting season to wrestle and butt heads with rivals, while females use their horns to protect their young from predators.

The common eland is the slowest antelope, with a peak speed of 25 miles per hour that tires them quickly. However, they can maintain 14 miles per hour trot indefinitely. Elands are capable of jumping up 8 feet from a standing start when startled 10 feet for young eland. The common eland's life expectancy is generally between 15 and 20 years.

Interestingly, when an eland herd is threatened by predators, the males form a front to protect the calves and pregnant females. Elands also have a nursery in their herds for their calves. They migrate widely in search of grazing, and therefore the dominant bulls are not territorial or defensive of their areas of land. During the females’ estrus cycles, however, bulls become possessive and territorial.

Living in regions with little surface water the eland, being a nocturnal animal, feeds on vegetation that absorb moisture from the atmosphere at night. This provides the eland with sufficient fluid sustenance. Being a browser, the eland feeds on a variety of plants. It can go long periods without water, but then needs tsama fruits and gemsbok cucumbers for its water requirements.

Eland trophy bull. Where to place your shot when eland hunting in Africa.

Shot Placement for Eland Hunting

Eland Hunting in South Africa

Your eland trophy should have an average shoulder height of around 67 inches, weigh about 1500 pounds and have a horn length of approximately 30 - 33 inches. The Safari Club International score for an Eland is 77. This is measured by adding the length of each horn as well as the circumference of the bases.

The largest of the Spiral Horned family in South Africa. Older mature males can weigh up to one ton and can be very difficult to bring down.

When judging the trophy quality of eland, it's important to look at the size of the ridge on the boss, the color of the dewlap and skin leading up to the head from the shoulders. Mature bulls will display a black/darkened fringe on the forehead, with the emphasis not always being the length of the horn but the age of the animal.

Free ranging eland can be found in the Bedford mountains. However high-quality bulls are very scarce. If you are looking for a very good bull you may have to consider going in to one of the high fenced reserves. As with most African animals shot placement should always be in the bottom third of the shoulder. Hunting eland with a 7mm or 30 caliber rifles would be minimum recommended caliber. Loading the eland always proves to be a fun exercise.

For those hunters who do not wish to go through the red tape of having to bring a rifle in to South Africa Nick Bowker Hunting has available a Sako carbon light 300 Winchester Magnum fitted with a suppressor. The rifle is mounted with a Swarovski DS with a built-in rangefinder. We have hand loaded Hornady ELD-X 200 grain ammunition. This set up including ammunition is available as part of all hunting packages free of charge.

Where to place your shot when Eland hunting in Africa. Vital organs of an Eland for shot placement

Eland vital organs for shot placement

The Cape eland is southern Africa's largest antelope. The largest of the spiral-horned antelope, this ox-like bovid develops the thick neck, hump, and dewlap characteristics of the Brahma bull. Some specimens exhibit faint, vertical stripes down the flanks.

An Eland trophy hunted in South Africa with Nick Bowker Hunting. One of Africa’s leading hunting safari outfitters

Eland Trophy taken with Nick Bowker. Your Professional Hunter and Outfitter