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Video: Nyala the Bambi of Africa

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In this video nyala are called the Bambi of Africa and we totally agree! Female nyala look very much like Bambi with their rusty light brown coats, large ears, dark eyes, bushy tails and beautiful white markings. Disney's Bambi is of course based on a deer but these are not indigenous to Africa (with the exception of the Barbary stag found only in the Atlas mountains). Nyala are native to southern Africa and can be found at Kariega Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

The name antelope was used in Byzantine Greek as a “fabulous animal” and is thought to come from anthos (flower) and ops (eye), perhaps meaning “beautiful eye” – a description particularly appropriate for the Bambi-like nyala.

Nyala are an intermediate size African antelope, between the related kudu and the bushbuck. They can typically be seen in the early morning or late afternoon browsing on leaves while on a Kariega safari. During the rainy season they also graze on fresh grass. These antelope are shy but are often spotted in small family groups near thickets and water. Nyala will often move into thick bush to keep cool during the heat of the day.

Nyala the Bambi of Africa

Male nyala have spectacular colouring and horns. Their coats are a dark chestnut-grey and they have a grey-black mane, white stripes on their sides and yellow leg stockings. They also have white markings on their faces, throats and thighs. Nyala males can stands up to 110 cm (43 in) and weigh around 100 kg (220 lb). Only males have horns. These grow straight and then spiral into one or two twists. Their horns can grown up to 80 cm (2 ft 8 in) long and have a yellow section on the tip.

Female nyala have rusty light brown coats and no horns. The ewes are smaller and weigh less than males but have the same white chevron between their eyes. Females have a crest of hair running along the top of their backs. This hair is more prominent in males.

The main predators of the nyala are lions and leopards.

Nyala's are noted as the most sexually dimorphic antelope, meaning that there is the largest difference between males and females. They are often also confused with kudu.

Differences Between Nyala and Kudu

Some of the ways to tell the difference between nyala (pictured above) and kudu (pictured below) are:

  • Nyala rams are shorter than kudu
  • Male nyala have more stripes and they are more pronounced against their darker and longer coats
  • Male kudu's have more pronounced humps
  • Kudu’s horns are longer, make a corkscrew spiral and don't have the yellow tip
  • Female kudu look more like males.
  • Nyala ewe's have many more stripes (up to 18) than kudu females.

Kudu Ram, often confused with Nyala the Bambi of Africa

Nyala Often Overlooked in Favour of Big 5

Although nyala (and most antelope) are often overlooked on safari in favour of the more glamorous Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo), these animals are fascinating and beautiful to watch in the wild. Their exquisite markings, dramatic horns and interesting behaviour make them a surprising treat while on a game drive or enjoying a drink as the sun sets over the African plains.

Did you see any African Bambi-like nyala while on your South African safari at Kariega Game Reserve? We would love to hear about your sightings and see your photos and videos. Share them with us by posting them on our social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. You can also add your comments below. 

Video thanks to Fergus Clarke.