African Buffalo

The pugnacious African buffalo, Africa’s only extant species of wild cattle, is a worthy member of the elite “Big-5” group of animals. Though they can appear very docile, buffalo are extremely dangerous, especially when threatened or wounded; they’ve even been known to circle back around hunters tracking them to launch unexpected attacks on their persecutors from behind.

You wouldn't want to find yourself on foot in thick vegetation like this when buffalo are around...

You wouldn’t want to find yourself on foot in thick vegetation like this when buffalo are around…

These bulky animals weigh in between 500 and 900kg, with adult bulls being much larger than the cows.

African buffalo inhabit a wide range of habitats, ranging from open grassy plains to dense rainforest, their most important requirements being an ample supply of fresh grazing, regular access to drinking water, and cover in which to evade (or ambush) predators.

Buffalo bull in typical habitat

Buffalo bull in typical habitat

Buffalo are gregarious animals, congregating in herds that may number into the thousands. Encountering one of these huge herds is among Africa’s most memorable experiences.

Old bulls that cannot keep up with the breeding herds become loners or join “bachelor” groups. It is these old “dagga boys” that have the worse reputation of being overly aggressive and extremely dangerous, probably due to being easier targets for hunters and predators than members of the well-protected herds where there’s safety in numbers.

Calves are normally born during the rainy season, and can keep up with their maternal herds within hours of birth. Buffalo of all ages are a favourite prey of lions, and large herds are often followed by prides of lion that specialise in taking down these powerful animals, despite the good chance that they’ll pay with their lives for their boldness. Buffalo are also susceptible to a wide range of diseases and parasites, and have a natural life expectancy of between 15 and 30 years.

Today, the buffalo remains one of Africa’s most numerous game species, with the IUCN estimating that a population of around 830,000 roam the continent, despite the pressures of hunting and habitat loss. In South Africa, large populations can be found in the Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant Park, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Be afraid, be very afraid...

Be afraid, be very afraid…

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61 thoughts on “African Buffalo

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  20. vastlycurious.com

    I am so grateful you sent me these links, I am very behind and this is a great read not to mention the photos. I have read that they will launch a counter attack! Can you imagine it? What a beautiful , insightful post!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      They’re extremely dangerous and vindictive Kathryn, you’d certainly not want to tangle with a buffalo! So glad to know that you enjoyed our post about them!

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  21. scrapydo

    “Magtige” dier. Is maar skrikerig om te naby te kom. Van jongs af is dit vir ons vertel hoe onbetroubaar n buffel is. Dink maar aan jagverhale waar gewonde een op sy spore terug loop en dan van agter af kom.

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  22. The Observer

    Great post. I am very fortunate to see buffalo almost every day where I stay. They love to spend time along the Crocodile River on the southern border of the Kruger National Park. I have heard people referring to “dagga boys” but never understood what they meant by it. I have a great respect for them. I was once stuck in the Kruger until after closing time, due to a massive heard congregating around our vehicle.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      I’m sure you will never forget that experience Vince!

      The area between Crocodile Bridge and Lower Sabie is renowned for some very big herds – good grazing and two large rivers within easy reach makes it an ideal area for them.

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  23. Sreejith Nair

    Great shots of this mighty beast…

    Let me tell you one thing, you have got an ardent follower who doesn’t have a wordpress account here, my daughter 🙂

    Thanks a lot for sharing…

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thank you Sreejith, always nice to have you visit with us!

      I’m so glad to hear about your daughter’s love for wildlife. Perhaps if we raise our youngsters to appreciate and value the natural world, they’ll one day be able to pass a healthier planet onto their descendants than the one we’re living on at present.

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      1. Sreejith Nair

        You are absolutely right, Dries.

        The previous generations had lost that connection with the nature and the result is obvious.

        Let’s at least try to teach our kids the importance of peaceful co existence, and hope for a better tomorrow 🙂

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      They are very interesting animals Linda, and an integral part of the ecosystem. And while they are lazily grazing around, they really do appear deceptively placid!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      When you see a herd of buffalo grazing peacefully in the grasslands it’s easy to forget what quick tempers they have Lois 😉

      Thank you for complimenting our photograps, we really appreciate it!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Welcome here at de Wets Wild, Belsbror!

      Indeed, the African buffalo is related to Asia’s “water buffalo”, which has been domesticated by man for thousands of years. Thus far, our African wild cattle has not been domesticated, due to their aggressive nature.

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      1. belsbror

        Even the domesticated ones have bad tempers, especially young males. It is terrifying to see them fight when they get loose.
        They are still around as important and dependable animals in farming. But the increased mechanization has limited their time in the fields.
        Thank you for the visit and the follow. I always like to see wild animals. 😀

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        1. de Wets Wild Post author

          Buffaloes are very powerful animals and I’m sure they’re still immensely valuable to their owners, even in today’s technological world, hey Belsbror? Apart from being beasts-of-burden, don’t they also use them for milk production?

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          1. belsbror

            Seldom. But there’s a breeding facility up in the north of the country where some are milked. I am not really sure if it’s still in operation.
            By the way, the carabao, as we call them, was formerly our national animal. It was replaced by the nearly extinct Philippine monkey-eating eagle that some say are bigger than the American eagle.

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            1. de Wets Wild Post author

              I think it is very fitting that your national animal should be something that is unique to the Philipines, like the monkey-eating eagle – it is a beautiful bird and it is sad to learn that it is so rare!

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              1. belsbror

                I agree. It is protected now but poachers will not stop. But we are trying our best to protect their habitats. They will flourish if we do not destroy their homes.

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                1. de Wets Wild Post author

                  This poaching problem is a scourge of epic proportions Belsbror, here in South Africa we know all too much about it. Why do poachers go after this beautiful Philipine eagle, is it also for “traditional medicine”?

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                  1. belsbror

                    Sorry for the late reply. Long power outage yesterday. 😦
                    Poaching brings in the money. When there are buyers, there will always be bold individuals who would try to cash in. Talking birds, sea turtles, ant eaters, you name it. Everything could be poached and sold. It’s really very sad.

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  24. M-R

    Wonderful creatures – how I admire their ability to refuse to become extinct ! But I wish all your animals of fable had the same ability as these cattle …
    Great to be back being informed on such a wonderful topic. 🙂

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  25. Patti Ross

    Once again you have educated me about an animal I knew nothing about, expect maybe hearing a name at some point. I love the first picture, especially, and the descriptor “pugnacious.” Any animal that will occasionally circle back around and track the hunters who are hunting is get my applause! Cool photos throughout, as usual. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thank you for once again spending some of your time with us Patti!

      Yes, these animals are belligerent and you certainly don’t want to mess with them!

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