Eland: Africa’s Largest Antelope

In my last six articles I’ve profiled the kudu, the cape buffalo, the impala, the warthog, the zebra, and the blue wildebeest. Today, I’m writing about Africa’s largest antelope: the eland. In addition to being massive animals, they are fun to hunt and taste absolutely delicious.

eland africas largest antelope featured

Eland Description & Distribution

Scientific Name: Taurotragus oryx

The eland is a massive species of antelope that inhabits much of Africa. There are two species of eland: the giant eland and the common eland. The giant eland lives in the central African countries of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, & the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Common eland inhabit Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in southern and eastern Africa. Both species are similar in appearance, but with the giant eland is slightly larger, often has longer horns, and is slightly darker in color than common eland.

However, both species of eland are gigantic animals. Full grown males stand nearly six feet tall at the shoulder and weigh over 2,200 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, but still usually weigh over 1,300 pounds. They have coats of fur ranging in color from tan to brown. Bulls typically have darker coats, which get progressively darker as they get older. They also have a dewlap on their neck and have a patch of thick fur on their foreheads, both of which females lack.

Eland are adaptable animals and live in a variety of habitats ranging from semi-arid to grasslands or lightly wooded areas. Though eland are mainly browsing animals, they will eat grass at certain times of the year. They do not need to drink water daily, but will drink if there is water nearby.

Eland Hunting Methods

Virtually all eland are hunted via walk and stalk. In many cases, hunters will walk or drive roads in the early morning and try to find a spot where a herd of eland crossed at night. If good tracks are found, they will then follow them until they catch up to the herd. The same can be done by checking water holes for visiting eland and attempting to catch up to them.

They are also sometimes hunted from a blind overlooking a water hole. This strategy works best in the afternoon, when temperatures are the warmest and animals are under the most pressure to drink.

Recommended Eland Cartridges

Even though they are very large, pound for pound, eland are not very tough animals. However, because they are so big (bigger than a buffalo in some cases), they should be hunted with a cartridge of appropriate power. Most hunters consider the .30-06 Springfield to be the minimum cartridge for hunting eland. That being said, there is nothing wrong with using a bigger cartridge, like the 325 WSM, the .338 Winchester Magnum, the .358 Winchester, 9.3x62mm Mauser, the .375 H&H, the .450 Marlin, the .45-70 Government, or even the .458 Lott on them. Whatever cartridge you use, make sure you can accurately shoot it.

Eland Shot Placement

As stated above, eland are not especially tough animals. If you place your shot properly, they will not run far at all. When the eland is standing broadside, aim at the center of the shoulder, about one third of the way up the body. Since they are so large, it is easy to misjudge the aiming point and hit an eland too high in the chest, resulting in a shot that misses the lungs (or only nicks the top of them). This can make for a very long day of tracking, so be cognizant of this.

Also, remember to adjust your shot placement if the animal is presenting a quartering shot. Aim slightly behind the shoulder if it is quartering away from you and slightly in front of the shoulder if the animal is facing towards you.

eland shot placement quartering away

One last thing: prospective eland hunters should strongly consider bringing a basic gun cleaning kit with cleaning solvent, a bore snake, and perhaps even a compact gun cleaning mat with them to Africa, especially if you’ll be hunting during the rainy season.

If you’ll be hunting with a muzzleloader, you should also ensure you bring the right muzzleloader supplies to help you operate and maintain your weapon during your hunt as well: cleaning kit, bullet starter, powder measure, etc.

You won’t get many shots at really big eland, so it’s important that your rifle is functioning properly at the moment of truth.

In addition to being absolutely massive animals, eland are beautiful in their own right. Of all the animals I have ever eaten, nothing can compare to eland meat, which tastes better to me than even the best Filet Mignon. The best part of the deal is because they are so large, you get an incredible amount of meat off an eland. This reason by itself is more than enough for them to be the object of a hunt in Africa.

The Perfect Shot by Kevin Robertson was used as a reference for shot placement.
Thanks to Big Game Hunting Adventures for the eland photos.

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Posted in: Pro Staff Blog, Scrolls
Big Game Hunter

About the Author:

I was born and raised in Texas where I started hunting white-tailed deer and hogs at an early age with my father and grandfather. Under their tutelage, I developed a strong respect for wildlife and the outdoors, as well as an appreciation and interest in firearms. Since then, I've hunted big game all over the United States as well as in Namibia and Zimbabwe. As a strong supporter of conservation as well as gun rights, I'm a member of Safari Club International, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the National Rifle Association. I live in Washington state with my wife where we both enjoy taking advantage of all the outdoor opportunities available in the Pacific Northwest. I currently serve in the United States Army and have served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a mortar platoon leader and cavalry troop commander. I was born in Texas and have hunted big game all over the United States as well as in Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. I served served on active duty in the United States Army for over 7 years and served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a mortar platoon leader and cavalry troop commander. I live in Washington with my wife and I am currently serving in the Washington Army National Guard. My passion for the outdoors led me to create The Big Game Hunting Blog and Big Game Hunting Adventures in order to share my hunting experiences with others and to help them fulfill their hunting dreams.
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