Buffalo - Syncerus caffer

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Afrikaans Buffel Zulu Nyathi
Tswana Nari Shangaan Nyari Shona Nyati
Photo Kobus Hugo
R.W. Min 4
5" Max 64"
S.C.I Min 100" Max 139" Measurement Method 10

wpe2D.jpg (11139 bytes)

F 14 cm
H 13cm


15 cm

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males have larger heads, thicker necks and heavier horns than females, and in old bulls the bosses join across the head. Females have two pairs of nipples between their hind legs.

Habitat and Distribution

Prefers areas with lots of grass, preferably 5-80 cm tall, shade and water. Does not occur where there is less than 250 mm rain per year.


An unselective grazer. Prefers leaves to stems, and grass species high in crude protein.


Single young weighing 36 kg are born at any time of the year after a gestation of 330-346 days. Calves are weaned at 5-15 months but associate with their mother for at least 2 years. Cows calve in alternate years or twice in three years. Cows first breed at 4-5 years old, bulls at 7-8 years when they have risen in the dominance hierarchy. Lifespan is 15 years. Lions are the most important predators, then spotted hyenas, though calves are taken by other large carnivores.

Behavior and Habits

Grazes for 8-10 hours a day. Because of it's strength it is more able than other grazers to push in amongst bushes to reach grass. They are sensitive to heat and tend to feed in the evening, at night and in the morning when it is cool. Drinks water at least once a day, morning and afternoon, and spends the hottest part of the day in shade, ruminating. Wallowing in mud and water relieves heat stress and has social significance; bulls wallow more than females and sub adults. Buffalo rest and ruminate very close together, even touching.

Very gregarious: the largest herds contain 1,000-2,000 animals; herds of a few hundred are more common. Large herds form in winter and split up in summer. Individuals and social groups may move between herds. Some adult bulls form small bachelor groups of 2-6, exceptionally 20-30, and old bulls may be solitary. Bachelor bulls return to the herds for mating. Separate dominance hierarchies exist among bulls and cows. Bigger and older animals tend to be higher ranking. Cows rise in status when they have a calf at foot. High-ranking animals tend to be in the front center of the herd where predation risks are smaller and food is more readily available. Fights are most commonly over access to females on heat; opponents charge and clash heads, and horn wrestle.

Herd home ranges of 60-1,000 sq. km are not defended as territories but do not overlap. Buffalo move in response to seasonal changes in food availability. Regular routes between grazing, water and cover are used. Herds travel in column formation when not feeding, on a broad front when both grazing and moving.

They are placid if undisturbed but becomes extremely dangerous when molested or wounded. Disturbances are investigated by raising the head with the nose held high and walking towards it. If threatened, herds bunch more closely, with adults on the outside and cows with calves in the middle. Approaching predators and humans are threatened by head tossing. Attacking predators may be driven off by the victim's companions, and predators may be attacked on sight. Maximum speed is 56 km/h; 44 km/h is probably more typical.


Cow-like bellows

Dung and Field sign

Droppings are similar to flattened cowpats.


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