The Giant eland is somewhat bovine like the Common eland, yet more elegant, in spite of its size. It is a massive antelope with body length of 290 cm in the bulls, 220 cm in the cows, and its height at the withers is between 150 and 176 cm in the bulls, 150 cm in the cows. Males can reach weights of 450-907 kg, females 440 kg. Horn length ranges from 80 to 123 cm (Kingdon 1982; 1997).
Its overall colour is ruddy fawn or chestnut, sometimes with a tint of bluish grey in adult bulls. This depends on the animal’s age and the climatic period or according to Bro-Jørgensen (1997) it may reflect the androgen status reaching its extreme in mature bulls during rutting. It has roughly nine to seventeen white stripes on its flanks. The adult bulls grow a knot of brown hairs on the forehead. It has a black mane on its neck from which a black stripe continues along the entire length of the back. From the chin to the chest there hangs an enormous black and white dewlap. Two white cheek spots and a white stripe in front of the eye are present on each side. The ears are broad, rounded and prominently marked, as are the hocks (white and black). The dark tufted bovine tail measure 55 to 78 cm. Both sexes have large and massive horns, especially the bulls. They curve in a spiral and can reach lengths of up to 80 to 123 cm; those of the males are longer and more widely splayed and have a looser spiral than in the Common eland. They are a greatly prized hunting trophy (Dorst and Dandelot 1970; Kingdon 1982; 1997). False hoof glands and probably apocrine glands under the forehead tuft are present. The hooves are not as broad as those of the Common eland; the false hooves are large. The cow has four teats (Bro-Jørgensen 1997).
The Giant eland has two sub-species. The difference between the sub-species has, until now, only been determined on the basis of the morphological description. The western subspecies Taurotragus derbianus derbianus (Gray, 1847) is characterised by smaller size, bright rufous ground colour and about fifteen body stripes. The eastern subspecies Taurotragus derbianus gigas (Heuglin, 1863) is characterised by larger body size, sandy ground colour and around twelve body stripes (Dorst and Dandelot 1970; Kingdon 1982; 1997; Ruggiero 1990).