The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is a very large herbivore having thick, almost hairless skin, a long, flexible, prehensile trunk, upper incisors forming long curved tusks of ivory, and large, fan-shaped ears. The two distinct species of African elephant are: African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana).They become aggressive when their young ones are being maltreated. Elephants are difficult to hunt because, despite their large size, they are able to hide in tall grass and are more likely to charge than the other species.
The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is a large herbivore having two upright horns on the nasal bridge. Its thick (1.5–5 cm) protective skin, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure, is very hard to puncture. It is now critically endangered, and hunting is extremely limited due to this. In the context of big-game hunting in Africa, the term "rhinoceros" may also refer to the white rhinocerous, but among big five game hunters, the black rhinoceros is preferred.
The African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large horned bovid. They are the only animals within the Big Five that are not endangered or threatened. The Cape buffalo is considered by many to be the most dangerous of the big five to hunters, with wounded animals reported to ambush and attack pursuers.
The lion (Panthera leo) is a large feline of Africa and northwest India, having a short, tawny coat, a tufted tail, and in the male, a heavy mane around the neck and shoulders. Lions are desirable to hunters because of the very real danger involved in hunting them.
The African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) is a large, carnivorous feline having either tawny fur with dark rosette-like markings or black fur. The leopard is considered the most difficult of the big five to hunt because of their nocturnal and secretive nature. They are wary of humans and will take flight in the face of danger. The leopard is solitary by nature, and is most active between sunset and sunrise, although it may hunt during the day in some areas. Leopards can be found in the savanna grasslands, brush land and forested areas in Africa. Of the big five, it is most difficult to acquire hunting licenses for.