The hardiest even-toed herbivore on the planet in my opinion
One regularly reads reports by gun writers and US hunters who had visited and hunted here that Africa animals are "tough". For prospective hunters after any one of the 10 elk-size antelope out here the advice invariably is to bring a .338 Win Mag or at least a .300 Win Mag. These reports fail to mention that by far the most popular big game calibre in Africa is the .308W, followed by the 30-06, 7x64 Brenneke and 7x57 Mauser.
These reports also fail to state that if you shoot your gemsbok at 250 yards with your .300 Win Mag the bullet performance would have been the same as a 30-06 from 233 yards, or a .308W from 224 yards.
Elk are much hardier and physically stronger than kudu or wildebeest, a fact I know from experience. There is no kudu or any other Africa game animal that will keep up with an elk running up the 10,000 ft above seal evel mountain slopes of Colorado. Strong legs, unmatched stamina, big muscle groups - and an immense life-energy to grow that bony antler structure on its head in just a few months. Its fitness and physical stamina is astounding. That is what tough means. Why then do US hunters say Africa animals are tougher?
It is because the typical US shot placement misses the heart on a gemsbok or kudu or wildebeest - and often the lungs too. And when only the lungs of Africa game are hit the damage to critical life sustaining systems is small.
Having gutted and quartered a fair number of mule deer and elk in Colorado, and of course many kudu, wildebeest, eland, blesbok, springbok and other large and medium game in South Africa, three aspects of their respective anatomies have become evident to me. (The physiology of these are discussed further down):
1. The heart is exactly in the same position in all of them: low in the chest, protected by the upper legs and shoulder bones on the sides, and the breastbone underneath.
2. In most of them immediately to the rear of the heart at the same level there is no critical organ.
3. In Africa game the lungs slope up in an arc from the heart to the rear, whereas both mule deer and elk - but particularly in the latter - have a far bigger mass of lung to the rear and upwards than their equivalent weight Africa counter parts.
The typical US "behind the shoulder" side-on shot in all of them leaves a distinct possibility of losing the animal in brush country, with very little blood spoor and no indication of physical discomfort. At best the diaphragm may be damaged which causes frequent resting but no impediment of brain (and therefore heart) function. In Colorado I experience this mostly with muzzle loader hunters aiming centre mass and underestimating the bullet drop.
The higher elevations and therefor lower air density that elk and mule deer live in during the hot summer months demand much better lung function and therefor their higher volume of lung. This has the downside for them that a bullet with very rapid expansion and therefor rapid slow-down and fragmentation (Nosler Ballistic Tip) destroys a considerable amount of lung alveoli if it enters side-on into the lung mass.
This degrading in lung function is the cause why lung shot animals in North America go down much quicker. In Africa because of the greater mass of shoulder skin, sinew, bone and muscle tissue to be withstood by the bullet on the way to heart the required strongly constructed bullets zip through the unprotected areas behind the shoulder with little lung damage.
The smaller lung volume arcing away upwards and to the rear of Africa game combined to their lower elevation habitat makes them far less dependent on a supercharged air supply and lung shots cause them to live much longer. This is the reason why a direct heart shot on Africa game is what is required - of course with a bullet that can withstand the impact forces of the skin and sinew and bone and muscle that protect the heart. Nosler Ballistic Tips or too light bullets simply are not a good choice for this.
Look at the buffalo below: Any lung shot is dangerous as he may live for hours. ANY shot behind the extended line of the rear of the front leg is a very dangerous placement. This is what get hunters and casual wanderers killed as he will live for weeks.
Even when shooting the dainty springbok below, heed the advice of your guide.