Animal Facts
(for me at least!)

...and some fun as well!
(scroll to the bottom)

If you would like me to feature any other animal or have any comments, please email me, I appreciate any feedback


All photos on this page by Peter
(except the giraffe below)


  I have always had an interest in animals, especially South Africa's wildlife. I am often awestruck at the knowledge of the game rangers in our National and private game parks. When we go on game drives they seem to have facts at their fingertips about all the fauna and flora we come across. We learn a lot on every trip, and I can really recommend that you go on a game drive when you visit one of our Parks.

Below are some facts that I personally found very interesting, hope you enjoy reading about them as well. In all instances I took the pictures.

  I would like to know what the difference is between a ewe and a cow and a ram and a bull, for instance an impala ram and buffalo bull. When is it a ram and when is it a bull, the same with ewe and cow. If you know, please email me.

I have heard from a reliable source who heard it from a reliable source that the cut-off point is the Nyala. A male Nyala is a bull and a female is a ewe. Anything larger is bull/cow and anything smaller is ram/ewe.
Can anyone confirm this?

Some more feedback from Mike, Head Ranger, Rhinda Forest: A Nyala is where the line is drawn... Female nyala is a ewe, male is a bull. Anything smaller than an nyala they are both ewe's and rams eg. Impala, anything larger is a bull and cow eg. Kudu

  The Giraffe - A Masterpiece in Design

Worldwide the giraffe must be one of the most recognisable animals. They grow up to 5.5 meters in height  and to get blood to these extremities giraffe have possibly the strongest heart of all animals. While lowering and lifting its head to drink water, the rush of blood to and from the brain would cause serious damage if there were not mechanisms in place to control it. At the base of the brain a network of spongy tissue, the "rete mirabile" collects the excessive flow of blood from the carotid artery when the head is lowered and normal blood pressure is maintained in the brain. The jugular veins have a series of one-way check valves to stop blood from rushing back to the brain when the head is lower than the heart.

  The blood vessels in the neck are also elastic-walled as protection against changes in blood pressure. When a giraffe splays its legs to drink water, it not only gives it more secure footing, the difference in height between the head and the heart is also reduced. All the veins and arteries in the giraffe's legs are situated close to the bones and the capillaries that reach the surface are very small. This prevents severe bleeding from superficial cuts and wounds. If the giraffe had to breathe at the same rate humans do, the 3.5 meter windpipe or trachea will suffer from windburn. Giraffes breathe at only a third of the rate that we do.
Giraffes have extremely long tongues with a length of 45 centimeters. It is covered with thick saliva and is used to pull twigs and shoots into the mouth where it is held between the lower teeth and the thick hard pad in the upper jaw. Giraffes don't have upper front teeth or incisors but a hard pad where teeth would normally be.  The leaves are then stripped off the twigs with a backward pull of the head. Up to 45 kilograms of leaves can be harvested this way to sustain its great bulk. The giraffe also has a modified atlas-axis joint that laest the head reach higher up in a vertical position. This animal is truly a masterpiece in design.
Giraffe have seven neck vertebrae, each 30 cm long. Because of their height they make a difficult kill for lions. Lions have been seen to chase a giraffe on to tarred roads in our national Parks where the easily slip and fall, and are then killed.
Source:  Pilanesberg National Park News.

Facts about Elephants Ears

- Elephants have the biggest ears in the animal kingdom. An adult African elephant bull's ear can have a vertical measurement of up to 2 meters and 1.2 meters wide
- An elephant's ears take up to 20% of total skin surface
- Each ear weighs about 20 kilograms
- The thinnest part of an elephant's skin is at the back of the ears.
- Between 5 and 12 liters of blood per minute flows through an extensive network of large blood vessels just under the skin at the back of the ear

  - By flapping it's ears, an elephant can lower its body temperature by 3ºC
- A baby elephant has nearly perfectly Africa-shaped ears
- As elephants mature, their ears get nicked and torn, giving them very distinctive identifying characteristics
- If an elephant charges with ears flapping, it may only be a mock charge, but if the ears are folded back against the head, the charge is for real.
Source:  Pilanesberg National Park News.
  Impala - Fast food of the African bush!

The impala even has the distinctive MacDonald's "M" on its rump and are also called predator take-aways. There are thousands of them in the Kruger Park and we get so used to spotting them that eventually we just ignore them.
Impalas have evolved a number of unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in their dangerous environment.
Grooming and tick removal are high on the list of survival skills. The impala is the only hoofed animal that allogrooms - mutual grooming from one animal to another - as well as grooming itself.

  It is also the smallest antelope that tolerates oxpecker birds to assist in removing ticks. Ticks can reduce blood reserves exposing the antelope to disease and malnutrition. To assist them in grooming, impalas possess  an "antelopes toothcomb" comprised of canines and incisors adapted for removing ticksand other parasites. By allogrooming they get rid of ticks etc in the unreachable places, like around the ears, head and neck. When it comes to the area under the tails the two black stripes of the MacDonalds logo come into play. Ths constantly wagging tail of the impala brushes the ticks towards the warmer black hair where the impala can reach with its teeth.
Unlike most animals, the impalas graze and browse, thereby maximising the availability of food. For safety they move in herds as large as the available food will allow. They scatter in all directions if a predator should charge, leaping in strides of up to 12 meters. Impala ewes give birth away from the herd and rejoins with her calf within two days. With lambs in the herd, vigilance is sharpened,  but the lams still fall prey to wild dogs and other predators.
Even though they are considered  predator "fast food", their numbers are increasing and these graceful antelope will not be on the endangered list for some time to come.
Source: Getaway Magazine - January 2004


Remains of fossil  hippos have not only been found in South Africa, but also in Europe and India. The fossils in England appear to be the same as the hippos found today.
The skin of a hippopotamus is very thick (up to 5 cm) and is used for making sjamboks (leather whips) The meat is edible and the hide is often used to make soap.
Hippos have a sweet tooth and are known to like sugarcane.

  At night hippos leave the water and follow established paths to their grazing areas. As a result of this their territories are pear shaped, narrow at the water and widening out towards the grazing area. The dominant male bulls mark these territories with dung, which they flick onto rocks and bushes with their short tails.
The hippo's yawn is not a sign of sleepiness or boredom but is actually a threat gesture, displaying long, thick, razor-sharp canine teeth, or tusks, with which it is capable of biting a small boat in half. Being fearlessly protective of their turf and young, hippos have killed more than 400 people in Africa - more than any other wild animal.
The hippo is the third biggest land animals, slightly smaller but heavier than a white rhino (the elephant is the biggest). In spite of its huge size - 3 metres (12 feet) in length, 1,5 metres (five feet) tall, with a mouth measuring a half metre (two feet) across - the hippopotamus can outrun a human. The bellowing of a bull hippo measures an ear-splitting 115 decibels, sounding like the roar of a lion.
  Wild Dog

Wild dogs operate in packs of between 10 and 30 (usually all related), led by a dominant male and female.  Only this couple mates. Incredible teamwork and self-sacrifice! Wild dogs are vicious and fantastically organised on the hunt, they can poach a cheetah's kill and chase off leopards. They are able to run down their prey as they can run at 55 km/h and keep that pace up for 5 km. They don't bother hiding the carcass of their prey as the pack is  able to fend off any other predators. They eat their fill and feed the young by regurgitating their food. These dwindling carnivores, with only four populations left in Africa and about 350 individuals in the Kruger park, are on the endangered species list.



The white rhino is larger than the black rhino and can weigh up to 5 tons. The white rhino has a square lip and is a grazer (grass eater) while the black rhino has a pointed lip and is a browser (leaf eater). Black rhinos are more aggressive and are known as uBejane (the vicious one) in Zulu. Rhinos are very short sighted but have a keen sense of smell.  The horn of the rhino  is tightly packed fibre, the longest recorded horn was 158 centimeters.

  Spotted Hyena

Hyenas are very successful hunters. Although known as scavengers, they catch more than half of what they eat themselves, they especially love Impala calves. The pack of hyenas will charge towards a group of impala, scattering them, then pick out a single impala and chase it down till it is too tired to escape. Hyenas will also follow a hunting lion pack and you can hear them giggling hysterically while waiting for the lions to make a kill. Hyenas have extremely strong jaws and can easily crush large bones which they are able to digest. Hyenas live in groups or "clans" led by a dominant female. A unique feature on the females is a fake penis to scare of males intruding on their territory.


The cheetah is known by the black tear marks running down the side of its face. It  is one of the most successful hunters, catching one of every two animals they chase. They prefer hunting in open areas. Considered the fastest land animal, they are able to reach speeds of 100km/h in 3 seconds, for distances of up to 300 metres. They knock their prey down at full speed with their front paws before delivering a suffocating bite to the neck. They are the only cat with non retractible claws. They hunt mostly during the daytime to ensure that other predators don't take their prey away from them.  They are often seen on mounds of earth or fallen trees where they are on the lookout for potential prey. 
females usually hunt alone and also rear the young alone. Males form groups of one to four individuals and usually hunt together,
Cheetahs reach a hight of 75-80 cm, a weight of 40-50 kg and have a life expectancy of 10-15 years.
I was lucky enough to witness a cheetah chase once, you have to be very fast just to see them, but its a glorious sight!
The lion is a magnificent animal that appears as a symbol of power, courage and nobility on family crests, coats of arms and national flags in many civilizations. Lions at one time were found from Greece through the Middle East to northern India, but today only a very small population remains in India. In the past lions lived in most parts of Africa, but are now confined to the sub-Saharan region.

Most cat species live a fundamentally solitary existence, but the lion is an exception. It has developed a social system based on teamwork and a division of labor within the pride, and an extended but closed family unit centered around a group of related females. The average pride consists of about 15 individuals, including five to 10 females with their young and two or three territorial males that are usually brothers or pride mates.

Generally a tawny yellow, lions, like other species, tend to be lighter in color in hot, arid areas and darker in areas of dense vegetation. Mature male lions are unique among the cat species for the thick mane of brown or black hair that encircles the head and neck. The tails of lions end in a horny spine covered with a tuft of hair.

  Lions are found in savannas, grasslands, dense bush and woodlands.

Females do 85 to 90 percent of the pride's hunting, while the males patrol the territory and protect the pride, for which they take the "lion's share" of the females' prey. When resting, lions seem to enjoy good fellowship with lots of touching, head rubbing, licking and purring. But when it comes to food, each lion looks out for itself. Squabbling and fighting are common, with adult males usually eating first, followed by the females and then the cubs.

Lions are the laziest of the big cats. They usually spend 16 to 20 hours a day sleeping and resting, devoting the remaining hours to hunting, courting or protecting their territory. They keep in contact with one another by roaring loud enough to be heard up to five miles away. The pride usually remains intact until the males are challenged and successfully driven away or killed by other males, who then take over. Not all lions live in prides. At maturity, young males leave the units of their birth and spend several years as nomads before they become strong enough to take over a pride of their own. Some never stop wandering and continue to follow migrating herds; but the nomadic life is much more difficult, with little time for resting or reproducing.

Within the pride, the territorial males are the fathers of all the cubs. When a lioness is in heat, a male will join her, staying with her constantly. The pair usually mates for less than a minute, but it does so about every 15 to 30 minutes over a period of four to five days.

Lions may hunt at any hour, but they typically go after large prey at night. They hunt together to increase their success rate, since prey can be difficult to catch and can outrun a single lion. The lions fan out along a broad front or semicircle to creep up on prey. Once with within striking distance, they bound in among the startled animals, knock one down and kill it with a bite to the neck or throat. Hunts are successful about half the time.

Cooperative hunting enables lions to take prey as large as wildebeests, zebras, buffaloes, young elephants, rhinos, hippos and giraffes, any of which can provide several meals for the pride. Mice, lizards, tortoises, warthogs, antelopes and even crocodiles also form part of a lion's diet. Because they often take over kills made by hyenas, cheetahs and leopards, scavenged food provides more than 50 percent of their diets in areas like the Serengeti plains.

Litters consist of two or three cubs that weigh about 3 pounds each. Some mothers carefully nurture the young; others may neglect or abandon them, especially when food is scarce. Usually two or more females in a pride give birth about the same time, and the cubs are raised together. A lioness will permit cubs other than her own to suckle, sometimes enabling a neglected infant to survive. Capable hunters by 2 years of age, lions become fully grown between 5 and 6 years and normally live about 13 years.

Lions have long been killed in rituals of bravery, as hunting trophies and for their medicinal and magical powers. Although lions are now protected in many parts of Africa, they were once considered to be stock-raiding vermin and were killed on sight. In some areas, livestock predation remains a severe problem.

Most lions drink water daily if available, but can go four or five days without it. Lions in arid areas seem to obtain needed moisture from the stomach contents of their prey. When males take over a pride, they usually kill the cubs. The females come into estrus and the new males sire other cubs.


The African, or Cape, buffalo is a member of the so-called "Big Five" group of animals, with the elephant, rhino, lion and leopard. Once popular trophies for hunters, these large and often dangerous animals have continued to capture the imagination. Buffaloes have earned a bad reputation from hunters and other people who come in close contact with them. They are unpredictable and can be dangerous if cornered or wounded. Though they have been known to ambush men and are often accused of deliberate savagery, they are usually placid if left alone.

  Buffaloes can live in herds of a few hundred, but have been known to congregate in thousands in the Serengeti during the rainy season. The females and their offspring make up the bulk of the herd. Males may spend much of their time in bachelor groups. These groups are of two types, those that contain males from 4 to 7 years of age and those that have males 12 years and older. The older bulls often prefer to be on their own. Males do not reach their full weight until about age 10. After this, however, their body weight and condition decline, probably because the teeth become worn.
Sight and hearing are both rather poor, but scent is well developed in buffaloes. Although quiet for the most part, the animals do communicate. In mating seasons they grunt and emit hoarse bellows. A calf in danger will bellow mournfully, bringing herd members running at a gallop to defend it.
Food sources play more of an important role than predation in regulating buffalo numbers. Without fresh green feed, buffaloes lose condition faster than other savanna ungulates, and so death is often due to malnutrition.
Grass forms the greatest part of the savanna buffalo's diet, although at certain times of the year browse plants other than grass is also consumed. Buffaloes spend more time feeding at night than during the day. They seem to have a relatively poor ability to regulate body temperature and remain in the shade for long periods of time in the heat of the day, or wallow in mud.
Females have their first calves at age 4 or 5. They usually calve only once every two years. Although young may be born throughout the year, most births occur in the rainy season when abundant grass improves the nutritional level for the females when they are pregnant or nursing. The female and her offspring have an unusually intense and prolonged relationship. Calves are suckled for as long as a year and during this time are completely dependent on their mothers. Female offspring usually stay in the natal herd, but males leave when they are about 4 years old.
If attacked, the adults in the herd form a circle around the young and face outward. By lowering their heads and presenting a solid barrier of sharp horns, it is difficult for predators to seize a calf. This effective group defense even allows blind and crippled members of the herd to survive. Thus predators do not have a major impact on buffalo herds; it is the old, solitary-living males that are most likely to be taken by lions.
Outside the national parks in East Africa, buffaloes frequently come into conflict with human interests. They break fences and raid cultivated crops and may spread bovine diseases to domestic stock. They are still numerous in many parts of East Africa, even though they have been periodically devastated by the rinderpest virus. In other areas of Africa, buffaloes have been eliminated or their numbers greatly reduced.


~ Some Animal Fun ~

  Animal Puzzle
See if you know the correct term for the following groups of animals:

A ??? of leopards
A ??? of penguins
A ??? of pigs
A ??? of racehorses
A ??? of herons
A ??? of bees
A ??? of apes
A ??? of kittens
A ??? of flies

leap, hive, cloud, kindle, string, rookery, siege, shrewdness, herd.

If you think you know the answers, email me, I will add your name to the Hall of Fame.

Puzzle Hall of Fame

The following people got the puzzle correct

Jan 7 - Suzette
Feb 13 - Tania and Aiden Ryan
Feb 21 - Jenny Wozniak
Feb 23 - Charmaine Bezuidenhout
Mar 19 - Sue van Strijp-Crear
Nov 26 - Gerda
April 21 - Nicole Pickering



Small 5
You've heard about the Big 5, but do you know what the Small 5 are? Go take a look here


~ Write a caption ~


Fancy yourself as a witty caption writer? Have a go at this one. I took this pic of a lioness going to the toilet, the expression on her face was priceless! So submit your caption I will place it below the pic



Captions received so far.....

  Maggie, Melbourne -   " Help, I need more fibre"

Peter, Johannseburg - "Oooooooooooo, no more warthog meat for me!"

Nico, Vancouver - "This diet is not working for me....."

Sarah, New Zealand - "Ah! ... the relief!"

Ray, Melbourne - "I really have to cut down on old buffaloes!"

Zella, Witbank - "shall i make it on time...?"

Irene in Perth - "Drat! He's used all the toilet paper again!"

Wes Schoch, Doonside - "Oh boy, it feels as if that buffalo horn is coming out sideways!"

Pauline - Mmabatho, South Africa - "Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, oh - my - gosh!! Simba was wrong. Snails do not make good laxatives."

Anita,San Jose, California - "Crap, I really thought I had the wind direction right this time...."

Tina from Namibia: Ooohhhh ... Shucks - Peter's wife was right ..... too much Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce on that elephant last night!!

Jenny, Sacrmento, California: "And this is what I think of the fact that you didn't come home last night! Don't give me that line about being out hunting again! You know darn well that I do most of the hunting around here, while you just lie around sleeping all day!

Amanda Prinsloo - UK: When I said I wanted an Indian I didn't mean a Vindaloo

Johan Strijdom, Kanada: "I knew I should have used Preperation H"

Dave Tucker: "OK. Who slaughtered the water buffalo?"

Kathryn: “Ah man, I’ll never eat biltong again the meats to hard, next time I’ll know not to leave my meat in the sun!”


Curious in Kruger Park

Take a look at the picture below, I took it in the Kruger National Park and it is just begging for a witty caption! Email your caption and I will add it to this page.

Zel: "Hoezit, my boet?" 

Karen Ballantyne: "Hey! You looking forward to the family reunion too? Did you bring grandma with?"

Jenny Wozniak: Passengers: "Excuse me, but can you tell us which way to Johannesburg?"

Baboon: "Don't worry about a thing. I'll water the plants and feed the dogs. You guys have a good trip and I'll see you when you get back. Tell everyone I say hi!"

Sue van Strijp-Crear:    Evolution! What evolution??????

Passengers: “Eish broo, do you know were we are?”
Baboon: “Eish broo, Kruger National Park”
Passengers: “Serious?”
Baboon: “Serious!”

Rentia:   "I wondered what happened to my twin brother!"

Henriëtt Marais:   "Hello,can I please see your drivers license?"

Anita Isaac:  "Shame, now who's the poor animals in a cage???"

Anji: "This is a hijack!"
      "Eish, wot you mean, we just stole it !!!"

Felix Kuku: Howzit couzinz, have you seen the man this park is named after ekse ?? Eish .....


Bird watching

Sometimes it is possible to tell which bird is a male and which a female without really knowing anything about the species, can you see what I mean?


South African Dishes

  If you ordered a "smiley" what would you be eating?

If you ordered "walkie talkies" what would you be eating?

Email your answers

Congrats to the following who answered correctly:

André and Suzette Bothma

  We had it all wrong about the crocodile so here is the truth

This is a real life exam of a Grade 5 (Std. 3) pupil. Primary School exam 1 of the 2nd term.

Write an essay on the following question: "What is a crocodile?"

(Use block letters and write legibly)

Name: Gerhard Janse vanVuuren Date: Monday 22/05/2004


§ The crokodile is a specially built so long because the flatter the better swimmer.

§ At the front of the crokodile is the head. The head exists almost only of teeth.

§ Behind the crokodile the tail grows.

§ Between the head and the tail is the crokodile. A crokodile without a tail is called a rotweiler.

§ A crokodile's body is covered with handbag material. He can throw his tail off if he gets a fright but it doesn't happen much because a crokodile is scared of nothing.

§ A crokodile stays under the water because if you were so ugly, you would also stay under the water. It is good that a crokodile stays under the water, because a person gets such a big fright if a
crokodile catches you that he first has to rinse you off before he can eat you.

§ A crokodile isn't hardly as dangerous as people say he is, except if he catches you.
The longer he bites you, the more it hurts.

§ Very old crokodiles suck their people and buck (antelope) that they catch dead.

§ If you eat him, he is a crokosatie. (reference to a "sosatie" = kebab)

§ A crokodile did not learn to swim with his arms so he uses his tail.

§ The little brother of the crokodile is a lizard.

§ The slow sister of the crocodile is a chameleon.

§ The gay brother of the Crokodile is a daffodile.

§ And the crokodile also has a dead brother the frikkidele." (reference to a "frikkadel" = meat ball)

(This appeared in the Newsletter - August 2004)

 Spot the giraffe......
I took this photo from a lookout point in the Kruger National Park.
When I looked carefully I could see a giraffe among the trees.
Can you spot it?
Click on the photo to se another photo I took from the same spot but I zoomed in on the giraffe.



Are you a good tracker??

Identify the animals from their tracks! Email me your answers!
All tracks are of the hind feet.....





--r------  ---r-