| 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
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
Dung and Field sign
Droppings are similar to flattened cowpats.