AskDefine | Define wildebeest

The Collaborative Dictionary

Wildebeest \Wilde"beest`\, n. [D. wild wild + beeste beast.] (Zool.) The gnu. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

wildebeest n : large African antelope having a head with horns like an ox and a long tufted tail [syn: gnu]



From Afrikaans, wild, wild + beeste, cattle


wildebeest (plural wildebeest or wildebeests)
  1. Another term for the gnu.
The wildebeest (plural, wildebeest or wildebeests), also called the gnu ( or /ˈnjuː/), is an antelope of the genus Connochaetes. It is a hooved (ungulate) mammal. It looks like a mixture of features between a cow and a horse.
Connochaetes includes two species, both native to Africa: the Black Wildebeest, or white-tailed gnu (C. gnou), and the Blue Wildebeest, or brindled gnu (C. taurinus). Gnus belong to the family Bovidae'', which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, and other even-toed horned ungulates.
Wildebeest grow to 3 ft 9 in–4 ft 7 in (1.15–1.4 metres) at the shoulder and weigh 330–550 pounds (150–250 kilograms). They inhabit the plains and open woodlands of Africa, especially the Serengeti. Wildebeest can live more than 20 years.


The principal food source of wildebeests is grasses. The seasonal nature of the African grasslands forces wildebeest to migrate. The main migration is in May, when around 1.5 million animals move from the plains to the woods; they return in November as summer rains water the plains.
The name wildebeest finds its origin in the Dutch and Afrikaans words wild and beest, which mean "wild animal" and "beest" in Afrikaans means "cattle" (or "steer"). Although the name is derived from the Dutch language, the name wildebeest doesn't officially exist in the Dutch language. The Dutch name for wildebeest is gnoe (where the Dutch "g" is pronounced [x], as in loch).
Afrikaners (Afrikaans-speaking South Africans) may have started using the name wildebeest for the animal as they had no other name for it when it was first encountered. "Gnu" is from a Khoikhoi language (which pronounced the [g]), likely an imitation of the grunting noise that a wildebeest makes.
The pronunciation of [gnuː] was popularised in English by the comic song "The Gnu" by Flanders and Swann, in which all words starting with n have a g prepended: 'I'm a g-nu, I'm a g-nu, the g-nicest work of g-nature in the zoo.'

See also

wildebeest in Bulgarian: Гну
wildebeest in Catalan: Nyu
wildebeest in Danish: Gnu
wildebeest in German: Gnus
wildebeest in Esperanto: Gnuo
wildebeest in Spanish: Connochaetes
wildebeest in Finnish: Gnut
wildebeest in French: Gnou
wildebeest in Galician: Ñu
wildebeest in Hebrew: גנו (בעל חיים)
wildebeest in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Gnu
wildebeest in Ido: Gnuo
wildebeest in Italian: Connochaetes
wildebeest in Japanese: ヌー
wildebeest in Dutch: Gnoes
wildebeest in Norwegian Nynorsk: Gnu
wildebeest in Norwegian: Gnuer
wildebeest in Portuguese: Gnu
wildebeest in Russian: Гну
wildebeest in Serbian: Гну
wildebeest in Swedish: Gnuer
wildebeest in Turkish: Afrika antilopu
wildebeest in Chinese: 角馬
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