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Waterbuck stand 120 to 136 cm (47 to 54 in) at the shoulder. Head-and-body length ranges from 140 to 240 cm (55 to 94 in) and tail length from 10 to 45 cm (3.9 to 18 in). Males weigh 200–300 kg (440–660 lb) and females 160–200 kg (350–440 lb). Their coats are reddish brown in colour and become progressively darker with age; they have a white 'bib' under their throats and white on their rumps. The waterproofing secretions of the waterbuck's sweat glands produce an unpleasant odor in its meat, unless the animal is skinned carefully. According to African myth, the meat of the waterbuck is not edible, but this is untrue—whilst not especially tasty, waterbuck venison is safe to eat. The long, spiral-structured horns, found only in males, sweep back and up
Waterbuck are found in scrub and savanna areas near water where they eat grasses. Despite its name, the waterbuck does not spend much time in the water, but will take refuge there to escape predators. They are diurnal. Females gather in herds of between two and six hundred individuals. Males keep territories of around three hundred acres (1.2 km²) during their prime. They usually lose their territories before the age of 10.