Several years ago it was unusual to see donkeys in town, let alone in the suburbs. Then it was more common to see them pulling a cart of firewood or, as in this case, collecting garden refuse to take to the town dump.

Times change and donkeys appear all over town these days. We frequently see them walking along our street.

Unlike the Urban Herd of cattle, donkeys are more difficult to identify as individuals. If you observe them closely though, you will see that they do indeed look different from each other. Like most residents, I have become resigned to their presence and now actually enjoy seeing them about – like these ones seeking shade on a very hot day. They are a stone’s throw from our house.

They are generally very dear animals and many of them enjoy a pat or a gentle rub. One has to approach them very carefully though because some shy away from contact. They can sometimes be seen sharing the grassy park nearby with members of the Urban Herd.

This one is nibbling grass opposite a primary school.

These ones are waiting expectantly outside my back gate!

My main concern is that these animals pose a danger to traffic, especially at night for they sometimes choose to sleep or stand in the middle of a street. This means that we all have to be particularly wary when travelling at night – especially as not all the street lights work and, of course the town is plunged into complete darkness during the periods of Eskom load-shedding!




Previously I left you seeing the Mud Cow in an uncompromising position when I focused on the Urban Herd on the corner outside our home. Well … needs must. In her defence, I will show her on two other occasions:

Here she is lying down peacefully chewing the cud while the rest of her section of the Urban Herd wander around munching grass or suckling their calves.

She is in the background on the left above. This time you can see some of her companions as they graze on a grassy slope leading up to a school playing field.


As beautiful as they are, impala (Aepyceros melampus),  tend to be overlooked by tourists to large game parks, such as the Kruger National Park and others – mainly because they are on the constant lookout for ‘more exciting animals’. This is likely so because impala are the most common antelope of the bushveld regions of South Africa. One sees them everywhere and so it came as no surprise when our guide on a night drive through a section of the Kruger National Park declined to stop after we’d spotted a herd or two, laughingly dismissing them as ‘the MacDonalds of the bush’ because they are preyed upon by most predators. Here is a herd of impala ewes lying in the dry winter grass with a few waterbuck doing the same in the background.

I think they are rather elegant animals which deserve a closer look. You will notice that a narrow black line runs along the middle of the lower back to the tail, and a vertical black stripe appears on the back of each thigh.

Males (rams) and females (ewes) look similar, although only the rams have horns. It is intriguing to see that these animals mostly seem to keep their tail tucked down between their hind legs.

Those dark, brush-like tufts just above the heel on each hind leg  cover important scent glands. These apparently release scent trails as the animal runs which enable lost individuals to regroup after the herd has scattered if they have been alarmed. The contrasting black and white markings mentioned earlier make an easy target to focus on while running, allowing for the herd to stay together in flight. Gathering in herds offer protection from predators, such as lions. An alert impala will bark out an alarm that puts the entire herd to flight. We have often seen flocks of Red-billed Oxpeckers alighting on the backs of impala to comb through their fur for ticks and other parasites.

During the rainy season, when food is plentiful, impala may gather in large herds of several hundred animals to browse on grasses and herbs, bushes, shrubs, pods, and shoots. On the other hand, we have seen them more scattered during prolonged drought periods. Even then, impala remain fairly close to a permanent water supply.

The breeding season for impala begins in March and continues during the early winter months. During this time the coat of the males darkens and they acquire a musky odour. Rutting occurs during early winter months. We found the unfamiliar snorting sound of rutting males quite scary one night while we were camping in the Moremi Game Reserve many years ago – we thought some leopards were nearby!

The dominant ram focuses on keeping his harem of ewes together, constantly herding them together by walking around them and even chasing straying females back to the group by emitting loud snorting and roaring sounds.


Earlier this month we were visited by a small number of the Urban Herd, including this very fine looking speckled cow:

They gathered on the verge outside our home. The Bronze Cow is on the left and the Mud Cow can be seen on the right – recognisable as she looks as though she has been splattered with pale mud:

Here the Mud Cow is on the left and on the extreme right is the Brindled Jackal Calf:

The Bronze Cow can sniff something in the air as the Mud Cow lifts her tail:


No wonder she lost interest!


‘Large antelope’ crops up in crossword clues every now and then and the answer is inevitably Eland.

My first memorable encounters with these, the largest of the herbivores, was whilst hiking in the Natal Drakensberg. There eland (Taurotragus oryx) were often seen grazing on the grassy slopes of the escarpment or ‘Little ‘Berg’ in the areas around Giants Castle or the Royal Natal National Park. They were probably used to hikers for they seldom moved either very far or fast when we approached them along a path.

These days I see them either in the Addo Elephant National Park or in the Mountain Zebra National Park – both situated in the Eastern Cape. To my surprise, I have very few photographs of them! Eland are water independent which means they can survive in semi-desert areas as well as in woodland and mountainous areas. Nonetheless, here a small herd of eland gather around a water trough – all look fairly young and are in very good condition.

Looking rather cow-like, the heavy horns of the eland spiral tightly, although female horns tend to be longer and thinner.

Males can grow to a shoulder height of 1,7 metres and weigh about 900 Kg, while the females are slightly smaller and weigh approximately 450 Kg. They have a slight hump at the shoulders. Both males and females have fawn-coloured coats with very faint vertical white stripes on their flanks. The animals turn grey or bluish-grey as they get older as the dark skin shows through the thinning hair – as you can see on this one.

Mature males sport a mat of hair on their foreheads that grows longer and denser as the animal ages. A tuft of black hair grows out of the male’s prominent dewlap – that loose fold of skin that hangs down from the neck.

While eland are browsers, feeding off leaves and using their horns to bring twigs and branches into reach, they also eat certain fruits, using their horns to dig into the soil in search of tubers.  Eland graze grass when it is green and tender. An intriguing fact about them is the clicking noise they make whilst walking. This apparently emanates from their hooves, which splay apart and click back together. Please scroll down to shoreacres’ comment for a link to an online video that illustrates this click.