The hartebeest is large antelope with a typical head-and-body length of 200 to 250 cm. The weight ranges from 100 to 200 kg. Apart from its long face, the large chest and the sharply sloping back differentiate the hartebeest from other antelopes.

Both sexes have horns, with those of females being more slender. Horns can reach lengths of 45–70 cm.