Forbs form the preferred dietary component of the kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). This preference was associated with the high nutrient content of their leaves and less fibrous stem material relative to trees and shrubs. Woody browse was most sought after during the early growing season when their new shoots are softest and forbs are least available. Kudus are able to maintain foraging efficiency for most of the year by substituting alternative food species as availability of preferred species declines. Woody species armed with structural defences are preferred during the growing season owing to higher nutrient content in their leaves than in unarmed species. During the dry season when food availability becomes limiting, the preference shifts in favour of species offering highest eating rates. Certain species were consistently rejected despite adequate nutrient levels presumably because of the presence of unidentified chemical deterrents in their leaves.