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10 Most Rewarding Safari Animals to Hunt in Africa

Africa is a vast and diverse continent with many wildlife species available for hunting. The sheer number of wildlife you might encounter on a hunting safari in many places in Africa may overwhelm an American hunter. We're used to only seeing a handful of animals on a typical hunting trip in the states. It's impossible to go after all of them on a single trip. Still, these are the most commonly hunted animals in Africa.

When making this list, I tried to choose the game animals most often hunted by Americans in Africa. Though the species of animals on this list tend to be the most popular, this is not just a list of the ten most common animals to hunt in Africa. It also represents the diverse ecosystems of the five most popular African countries to hunt and the animals most commonly associated with Africa.

Fortunately, thanks to the many conservation benefits stemming from well-regulated trophy hunting, populations of most game species in Africa are larger now than ever. For that reason, an African hunting safari with one of the many skilled professional hunters is not nearly as expensive as you probably think.

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This list of the top animals to hunt in Africa should give you a quality place to start if you're in the early stages of planning an African safari.

10. Leopard

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The smallest of the "big cats," the leopard is the second member of the "Big 5" on this list. Weighing 120-200 pounds, leopards are opportunistic predators that inhabit many African ecosystems. Their diet widely varies depending on the food sources in the area. Still, they seem to prefer medium-sized antelope when given the opportunity. Leopards are very fast and extremely strong. They routinely carry their kills into trees, so they are out of reach from ground-bound predators and scavengers such as hyenas.

Unfortunately, their numbers have been on the decline lately. Though they still inhabit most of Africa, their populations are much smaller and more fragmented than they used to be. "Mr. Spots" is a shy, solitary, and elusive animal. Leopards do most of their hunting at night, so encountering them during the day is rare. The only reliable ways of hunting leopards are with hounds (where legal) or over bait, which is the most common method. Though they are generally not aggressive towards humans, they can be dangerous when injured.

9. Eland

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The eland is the largest species of antelope in the world, and big bulls may weigh more than 2,200 pounds (bigger than a Cape Buffalo). Eland is also a spiral-horned antelope species, and both males and females have horns, though the horns on a female are smaller than those on a male. Eland inhabit large portions of central, eastern, and southern Africa. They usually live in small herds and are found almost everywhere except for thick forests, deserts, and swamps. They are well adapted to grazing and browsing and will vary their diet according to the season. Eland are also very mild-mannered, and they may be domesticated. Finally, eland are also highly sought after for its delicious meat.

8. Warthog

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The warthog is a medium-sized pig family member that typically weighs 150-300 pounds. They are found all over Africa except for dense forests and deserts. They are among the most reliant of all species in Africa on water and must drink daily to survive. Unfortunately, this also means they are among the first animals to suffer during an extended drought.

All warthogs have two sets of tusks, which are huge teeth, though males have more prominent tusks than females. Warthogs use tusks for digging, protection from predators, and dominance fights between males. Males have two sets of "warts" on the sides of their faces which are fat stores and provide protection from other warthogs when they fight. Warthogs are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of food. They are also a food source for lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, wild dogs, and crocodiles.

7. Springbok

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Similar in some ways to impala, springbok is a medium-sized species of antelope that usually weigh 75-100 pounds. Like gemsbok, they inhabit arid and semi-arid areas of South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia. Depending on the season, they are either grazers or browsers. You can find them in large herds of up to several hundred animals on the open grasslands of their habitat. They also get all the water they need from their food and do not need to drink water to survive. Springboks are known for their delicious meat and beautiful hides.

6. Cape Buffalo

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The first member of the "Big 5" species of big game on the list, Cape Buffalo is a trendy yet dangerous game among hunters journeying to Africa. Distantly related to domesticated cattle, Cape Buffalo is known for being extremely large, rugged, and ill-tempered. Big bulls can weigh nearly 2,000 pounds and have large horns that sweep down before curving upwards and to the rear.

Buffalo are grazing animals that live in herds in a wide variety of places in Africa. They depend upon water. So they inhabit various swamps, forests, and grasslands in Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia's Caprivi Strip. Other than man, lions are the only severe predators of adult Cape Buffalo. However, crocodiles, leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs will prey on the young, weak, or unwary.

Buffalo also has a well-deserved reputation for being extremely aggressive, primarily when injured. They are sometimes referred to as "The Black Death." While this nickname probably exaggerates their true nature, they kill and hurt many people each year, and each year, buffalo charges resulting in injuries are not uncommon.

5. Gemsbok

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Gemsbok is a large antelope species that usually weighs 500-700 pounds. Both male and female gemsbok have long, straight horns. However, males typically have horns that are shorter and thicker than the horns of females. This feature makes the Gemsbok unusual because females are often pursued instead of males for their longer, more desirable horns. Gemsbok inhabit arid regions of the Kalahari Desert and its surrounding areas of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. Gemsbok adapt well to life in arid and semi-arid environments. They do not need to drink water to survive, as they can fulfill all their water needs through the foods they eat. Gemsbok are also known for being highly resilient animals and can be very tough to bring down.

4. Zebra

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Due to their distinctive black and white stripes, zebra are one of the most recognizable animals in Africa. Weighing up to 800 pounds, zebra are a species of equid somewhat related to horses and donkeys. Though they do not have horns, people often hunt zebra for their unique hides. Since they are a food source for many African predators, people also hunt zebra for bait when hunting leopards and lions.

Zebra are divided into two primary species: Plains & Mountain Zebra, which accurately describe their habitat. Plains Zebra most often live in open grasslands and are commonly found in large herds in the company of wildebeest. Plains Zebra are extremely common, and you can find them in virtually all of southern and eastern Africa. Mountain Zebra are much less common, live in smaller groups, and are only found in specific parts of South Africa and Namibia.

3. Greater Kudu

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Possibly the most graceful and majestic animal on the continent, Greater Kudu have been the objective of many hunters over the years. Greater Kudu are best known for its extremely long, spiraling horns. The size of the horn varies, but most adult kudu bulls have horns that measure 45-55 inches, with exceptional kudu having horns around 70? long. Kudu are among the continent's largest antelope and usually weigh 600-700 pounds. However, they are exceptionally nimble for an animal of their size.

Kudu are the "Grey Ghosts"of the African plains and can be elusive animals. They inhabit thickly wooded areas from Tanzania down through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia. Of these places, South Africa's Limpopo Province has perhaps the best kudu hunting.

2. Blue Wildebeest

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Blue Wildebeest are a large species of antelope that are particularly well known in Tanzania thanks to their long migrations following the rains. Blue Wildebeest are grazing animals and live in herds ranging in size from a handful of individuals to thousands of wildebeest. They are most often found in open terrain and are usually in the company of zebra, springbok, and impala.

Blue Wildebeest typically weigh 500-600 pounds and are considered exceptionally tough animals. They are commonly known as the "Poor Man's Cape Buffalo" for their ability to soak up bullets, seemingly without effect. They live over a wide swath of Africa, including Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia.

1. Impala

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Impala are a medium-sized antelope and is the most popular animal to hunt in Africa. They are gregarious animals, and people observe large herds feeding in the open grasslands that they love. Most often weighing 100-150 pounds, they are approximately the same size and build as white-tailed deer.

Native to Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania, the impala are a common and relatively inexpensive animal to hunt in Africa over most of its range. In addition to being widespread targets for trophy hunters, young rams and ewes provide excellent table fare. People commonly shoot them for camp meat and bait for lion and leopard hunting.

You can read more articles by John McAdams on his hunting blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt or check out one of his South African hunting safaris