Africa, below the Sahara Desert


Thornbush, dry and shrub woodlands, and savannas

Built-in corkscrews

If an animal is called a spiral-horned antelope, you better believe it’s going to have a set of spiraling horns on its head! Kudu and eland fit this category. The bulls (males) have these impressive hood ornaments. In the eland species, the cows (females) have them, too.

So how do the horns grow in a spiral? The twisting is a result of a growth pulse. The horn material grows faster and thinner at certain times, and then thicker and slower at other times. An animal’s genes control growth pulses.

What a difference gender makes

Spiral-horned antelope bulls tend to be heavier and darker than the cows. In eland, the bulls' horns are always heavier and longer than the cows' and often have more spirals. The spirals help the bulls lock horns with each other when engaged in fights over cows. As its name suggests, the giant eland is the world's largest antelope species.

Greater or Cape kudu bulls have the longest horns. From tip to tip, the horns can grow up to 28 inches (71 centimeters) long. But if you were to straighten out the spirals, the horns would be up to 35 inches (89.5 centimeters) long.

Theodore Roosevelt once described greater kudu as the handsomest of game animals.
Young common eland can leap over a 10-foot-tall (3 meter) obstacle from a standing position.
Eland can survive up to a month without fresh water.

The San Diego Zoo obtained its first spiral-horned antelope, some eland, from the St. Louis Zoo in 1941, and greater kudu in trade from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago in 1946. From there, our collection has grown.

Today, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has herds of both common and Cape or greater eland in its large South Africa field exhibit. Our greater kudu herd lives in the Central Africa field exhibit. All can be viewed from the popular Africa Tram tour or more closely on a Caravan Safari tour.

Eland are raised like domesticated cattle in parts of Africa for their hide, milk, and meat. In other parts of Africa, both eland and kudu are hunted in an unsustainable manner for their meat. Some hunters kill the animals just to take their spiral horns as trophies. Lesser kudu Tragelaphus imberbis are classified as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

You can help us bring species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.