Kudu shofars, sometimes mistakenly identified as “gazelle shofars,” come from the Greater Kudu, Tragelaphus strepsiceros, a woodland antelope found throughout eastern and southern Africa. The males, which weigh in at 190-270 kg (420-600 lbs), have large horns with two and a half or even three full twists. If straightened they reach an average length of one meter. However, the male horns do not begin to grow until the male is at least six months old, forming their first spiral at around two years of age, and not reaching the full length until the age of six.
The kudu shofar (sometimes referred to as a Yemenite shofar) is therefore much larger than a ram’s horn shofar. Some hold that the kudu shofar was the original shofar used by the Jewish people, brought to the Land of Israel from Africa. The kudu shofar has a polished exterior from the mouthpiece to the middle portion. The remainder often has a natural finish and texture. The original color of the shofar is retained across this portion.
Small-sized kudu shofars measure between 26 and 29 inches, while medium ones measure 30 to 33 inches and the large ones between 34 and 38 inches or more.
The Gemsbok Shofar and Other Exotic Types of Shofars
The gemsbok shofar has been gradually making its way onto the shofar market in recent years. According to Rabbi Natan Slifkin, it is made from the horn of an antelope, the southern African oryx (Oryx gazella), known in Afrikaans as the “gemsbok.”
The horns are about two and a half feet long, straight, ridged along half their length, and dark brown or black in color, lending the shofar a striking appearance that can command a hefty price. They are considered kosher, but according to halacha are not preferred, because they are not bent. However, for the Jubilee year, the Mishna states that a straight horn is ideal (Rosh Hashana 3:2).
Another exotic shofar appearing on the shofar market is the eland shofar, which is straight, but has a twist (not a curve) along part of its length. Ibex shofars and pronghorn shofars are also sometimes sold, and are kosher, but not preferable. (According to the Pri Megadim, the ibex shofar is preferable to the eland shofar, because the ibex is from the goat family and the Torah uses the same terminology for goats and sheep.)