The name Wildebeest is an Afrikaans name which means “wild beast”. The name arose due to the menacing appearance presented by its large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard, and sharp, curved horns. The dark silver-grey body is marked with dark vertical bands on the front quarters.The wildebeests, also called gnus or wildebai, are a genus of antelopes. They belong to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, goats and sheep. Fossil records suggest these two species diverged about one million years ago, resulting in a northern and a southern species. The blue wildebeest remained in its original range and changed very little from the ancestral species, while the black wildebeest changed more in order to adapt to its open grassland habitat in the south. The most obvious way of telling the two species apart are the differences in their colouring and in the way their horns are oriented.
In East Africa, the blue wildebeest is the most abundant big game species and some populations perform an annual migration to new grazing grounds but the black wildebeest is merely nomadic. Wildebeest inhabit the plains and open woodlands of parts of Africa south of the Sahara. The black wildebeest is native to the southernmost parts of the continent. Its historical range included South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho, but in the latter two countries it was hunted to extinction in the 19th century. It has now been reintroduced to them and also introduced to Namibia where it has become well established.