Three subspecies of Lechwe occur in southern Africa. The red Lechwe, Kobus leche leche, occurs in separate populations in western Zambia, northern Botswana and the eastern Caprivi in Namibia. The Kafue Lechwe, Kobus leche kafuensis, is found on the floodplains of the Kafue in Zambia and the black Lechwe, Kobus leche smithemani, occurs in the Bangwelu swamps in north-eastern Zambia.
The Lechwe is a medium-sized antelope, closely related to the Waterbuck. The ram stands about one metre at the shoulder and has a mass of about 80 kg. The hindquarters are noticeably higher than the forequarters. Reddish brown on the upper parts and flanks and white on the under sides and inner legs. The fronts of the forelegs and of the hocks are black and it has white patches around the eyes. Only the rams carry lyrate-shaped horns. The hooves are distinctly elongated, which is an adaptation to the wet and soggy substrate of their preferred habitat.
The Red Lechwe is adapted to a habitat of marshlands, swamps and shallowly inundated floodplains of up to 500mm deep. Within this habitat, Lechwe browse on the lush green aquatic and semi-aquatic grasses.
Rams are territorial and do not share space, whereas males which fail to establish territories congregate in bachelor herds. Territories are actively defended. Ewes and their offspring form breeding herds and move freely between territories of contesting territorial rams, which will compete for mating favours only while receptive ewes are within their domains. Territorial behaviour may last up to a few months during the mating season.
Breeding is not strictly seasonal, especially not amongst the Botswana populations. However, there is a tendency for ewes to drop their calves during late winter and early summer when water levels recede. Gestation period is 225 days. Terminally pregnant females leave the herd to give birth to single lambs in the cover of clumps of bushes, where they keep their offspring hidden for two to three weeks.
Activity peaks during the cooler hours of the morning and afternoon. Most animals prefer to rest during the heat of the midday.
In Southern Africa the Red Lechwe is found only in the Okavango swamps in Botswana and the Linyanti swamps of the Caprivi Strip, Namibia.