Topdeck (picture above), a white saddleback blesbuck, is our latest addition to the Gamevest breeding stable. We purchased Topdeck from Mr Petri Snyman from Somerset East in the Eastern Cape for R 7.8million at the ABSA Kirkwood Game Auction on the 26th of June 2014.

We are very excited and proud to be the new owners of Topdeck and believe that the off-spring of this beautiful animal will promise to bring back this specie variant to its former glory.

Known as: Blesbuck (Blesbok)
Latin: Damaliscus pygargus phillipsi
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetartiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Genus: Damaliscus
Size: Head-body length: 1.4 m Height: 1 m
Weight: 55 – 80 kg


Low Risk, conservation dependent (LR/cd). White Saddleback – Vulnerable


A medium sized plains antelope with shoulders that is higher than the hind quarters, resulting in a sloping back. This is the typical body profile of the Alcelaphinae, the hartebeest family. The popular name blesbuck refers to the distinct white blaze on the forehead and muzzle. The remainder of the coat usually varies from a light to dark brown but lacks the dark plum like shading that distinguishes the bontebok. The saddle and the rear of the buttocks are a dull yellow-brown. The underside of the body and parts of the lower legs are a dirty white.

Blesbuck are endemic to southern Africa with a distribution restricted to the south of the Zambezi River. Two important colour variants of blesbuck have been selectively bred by private game farmers for the commercial market namely the white-blesbuck and the yellow-blesbuck with the white saddleback blesbuck as the latest and rarest of them all. These variants are not genetically different from the blesbuck and thus are not new sub-species. They breed successfully with each other.

The white saddleback blesbuck’s most important features are:

  1. Its legs will be white right up to its flanks without a dividing line.
  2. There will be a distinct difference between the white saddleback blesbuck and the yellow blesbuck as the yellow blesbuck will be more yellow on the sides.
  3. It will have a clear distinct red brown saddle on its back and neck.
  4. It will have a red brown stripe on its belly.
  5. There will be a distinct red-brown round patch on its tail.
  6. Good pigmentation is a requirement.
  7. There will be no pink coloration on the horns, hoofs and eyes.
  8. The ewes’ genital parts will be pigmented.

A DNA Register for all pure bred white saddleback blesbuck are kept with the White Saddleback Breeders Association who are all members of the WRSA (Wildlife Ranching of South Africa).

Comparison To Man



Both genders bear well-developed lyre-shaped horns that bend backwards from the skull and then turn outwards away from the body until the tips point upwards or slightly forward. The horns are heavily grooved for 85-90% of their length and have smooth tips. The horns of adult rams are thicker at the base and lighter in colour than those of the ewes. In rams the horn base thickens with age until they almost meet, but remain separated by a gap of 2-3 cm with ewes. The adult horn length varies


Blesbuck are well adapted to mountain plateaux’s with a mixed short grass stratum and a high rainfall. In the warmer subtropical savannahs, an abundance of trees providing shade is essential. Although blesbuck can survive on sourveld, these habitats are marginal and result in a reduced performance. Steep slopes and rocky surfaces are avoided. Blesbuck has been successfully introduced into marginal habitats across the major part of South Africa, the central regions of Zimbabwe and the north-central areas of Namibia. These areas include fynbos, coastal plains, open bushveld and semi-Kalahari habitats.


Preferred habitat is higher altitude grassland plains found in the central and eastern regions of South Africa at an annual rainfall of 400-1 200 mm. Blesbuck are dependent on surface water and must drink daily or at least every second day. Arid environments lacking surface water, karroid veld without a grass stratum, thickets, forests, dense bushveld, closed woodland and tall grass stands are unsuitable. Open woodland and savannah are marginal.

Feeding & Nutrition

Blesbuck are predominantly diurnal. They become less active during the cold winter months when many hours are spend lying, either in the sun or in the shade of trees. It is a highly selective grazer of exclusively short grasses, smaller than 6 cm, that are grazed down to 0.5 cm above ground. Sweet-grass species are preferred although they adapt well to mixed veld where sour-grass species constitute up to 65% of the grass layer. Overall, the diet consists of 95% grass and 5% dicot forbs and browse. The young summer growth on burnt veld and cultivated lands are preferred and they will travel long distances to reach it. Moribund grass that has not been grazed for longer than a year, as well as grass tufts from a previous season’s growth is avoided. The species composition of the diet changes markedly between seasons. In winter, blesbuck roam and feed across the entire home range but

Social structure

Blesbuck are social animals that live in groups of varying sizes.

  • family groups of 20-120 with sub-adult females of all ages, young males of 1-2 years and post-mature ewes
  • harem groups of 4-25 socially mature ewes >2.5 years and their lambs of 10-18 months, and sometimes associated with a territorial ram
  • bachelor groups of sub-adult rams, 2-4 years, and occasionally one or two adult rams, >4 years.
  • adult ram groups of 20-120 with non-territorial adult rams, 4-8 years, and post-mature rams >8 years
  • solitary territorial rams, 4-8 years

In some populations, especially on smaller game farms, there are less distinctive differences between bachelor and adult ram groups and both categories can be united into a single group. The same applies to family and harem groups on smaller land units with spatial restrictions. Bodily contact between individuals is rare and family bonding poor. They groom themselves by rubbing the body with the muzzle or horns or by nibbling the skin with the incisors. After 12-18 months the sub-adult females leave to join a family group and after 10-12 months the young males leave to join a bachelor group. The stability and size of home ranges depends mainly on the food source. Sporadically migrations occur when food sources become depleted. During the rutting and mating season adult rams display aggressive, territorial behaviour. Some remain in or around their territories long after the mating season but only because the habitat in the area is optimal. During these times, territories are not defended. During moist, summer months, aggregations of up to 650 animals frequently form.


Hunting for their meat and skins has bought both subspecies close to the brink of extinction in the past. Bontebuck numbers were severely reduced by the 1830s, but luckily farmers in the Bredasdorp area had the foresight to enclose the remaining wild bontebuck on their land, saving this subspecies from extinction. Blesbuck, which were hunted in their thousands, were also saved by protection on farms and game reserves. While hunting and trade of both subspecies still occurs, this is believed to be strictly controlled and so no longer a threat. Today, the main threat is hybridisation between the bontebok and blesbuck, which, while this does not threaten the existence of the species, could result in the loss of these distinct and unique subspecies.


While the bontebok and blesbuck sadly no longer roam wild in South Africa, the species’ survival is now much more secure, although somewhat dependent on the continued existence of the farms and game reserves on which they occur. Both subspecies also occur in protected areas; one of which was created in 1931 to protect the last 30 bontebok left in the wild, the Bontebok National Park, South Africa.

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