The African buffalo consists of
the group called The "Big Five", alongside the elephant, rhino, lion
and leopard. A popular trophy among hunters, these large and often
dangerous animals have inspired awe and stir the imagination of many
people. Buffaloes are unpredictable and have earned a bad reputation
from hunters and other people who come in close contact with them.
They can be dangerous if cornered or wounded. Though they are often
thought to be savage, and have been known to ambush men on slight
provocation, they are often placid if left alone.
In Africa there is only one species of buffalo, however two distinct
subspecies exist: the large savannah buffalo and the much smaller
forest buffalo. The forest subspecies is only found in central and
The Savannah buffaloes are large and heavy and so much resemble the
cow. There is a great variance in their size from one animal to
another, the shapes of their horns and their skin colour. Adults are
usually dot a dark grey or black (or even look red or white if they
have been wallowing in mud of that colour) and the young are often
reddish-brown. The smaller forest buffalo maintains the red colour
even as an adult, although in western Uganda, many savannah
buffaloes are also red or pale orange instead of black. Adults lose
hair as they age.
Both the male and female buffaloes spot heavy and ridged horns that
grow in a downward curve and then up from the head. Their horns are
formidable weapons used in attacking against predators and for
jostling for space within the herd; males use the horns in fights
Both the savannah and forest
buffaloes live close to water pads. Generally, buffaloes are found
throughout the northern and southern savannah lands as well as in
the lowland rain forest.
Habits and Behaviour
Buffaloes live in herds of a few
hundred, but have been known to congregate in thousands in the
Serengeti national park during the rainy season. The females and
their offspring make up the bulk of the herd. Males may spend much
of their time in bachelor groups. These groups are of two types,
those that contain males from 4 to 7 years of age and those that
have males 12 years and older. The older bulls often prefer to be on
their own. Males do not reach their full weight until about age 10.
After this, however, their body weight and condition decline,
probably because the teeth become worn.
Buffalos have a strong sense of smell - scent, however their sense
of sight and hearing are both poor. Although they exhibit quietness
most of the time, the animals do communicate. In mating seasons they
grunt and emit hoarse bellows. A calf in danger will bellow
mournfully, bringing herd members running at a gallop to defend it.
Females have their first calves at age 4 or 5. They usually calve
only once every two years. Although young may be born throughout the
year, most births occur in the rainy season when abundant grass
improves the nutritional level for the females when they are
pregnant or nursing. The female and her offspring have an unusually
intense and prolonged relationship. Calves are suckled for as long
as a year and during this time are completely dependent on their
mothers. Female offspring usually stay in the natal herd, but males
leave when they are about 4 years old.
The African buffalo is mostly
nocturnal in feeding. Grass forms the greatest part of the diet. The
night feeding seems to emanate from the their inability to regulate
body temperature during the hot day temperatures. Food sources play
very important role than predation in regulating buffalo numbers.
Without fresh green grass, buffaloes lose condition faster than
other savannah animals.
Predators and Threats
In East Africa, buffaloes frequently come into conflict with humans
especially outside the national parks . They often break loose from
the confines of the park fences and raid cultivated crops and
sometimes spread bovine diseases to livestock. Although they are
still numerous in many parts of East Africa, in some areas buffaloes
have been eliminated or greatly reduced in number.
Thought You Should Know
That the African buffalo differs from the domesticated water buffalo
found in other parts of the world, although they both superficially
resemble one another.
Tat the buffalo is one of the most abundant of Africa's large
herbivores. It depends on water and does not live in regions with
less than 10 inches of rain a year.
African Wild Dog