The African buffalo or Cape buffalo is a large African bovine.
The African buffalo is one of the most successful grazers in Africa. It lives in swamps and floodplains, as well as mopane grasslands and forests of the major mountains of Africa.
The African buffalo has a broad chest, large limbs and a large head.
The adult buffalo’s horns are its characteristic feature; they have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as a “boss”.
The sparse covering of hair over the body typically ranges from brownish to black in color.
Average lifespan of the African buffalo is about 20 years in the wild.
Its shoulder height can range from 1.0 to 1.7 meters (3.3 to 5.6 feet) and its head-and-body length can range from 1.7 to 3.4 meters (5.6 to 11.2 ft). The tail can range from 70 to 110 centimeters (28 to 43 inches) long. The horn span of a large African buffalo bull can exceed 1 meter (3 feet).
There are currently four recognised subspecies of African buffalo, which vary greatly in size and appearance.
The forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus) is the smallest of the subspecies and weight about 270 kilograms (595 pounds). It has a reddish to dark red-brown coat, and smaller, swept-back horns. Distinctive tassels hang from the tips of the forest buffalo’s ears.
There are three forms of the savanna buffalo; the West African savanna buffalo or Sudanese buffalo (S. c. brachyceros), the central African savanna buffalo or Nile buffalo (S. c. aequinoctialis) and the southern Savanna buffalo or cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer).
The southern savanna buffalo, or cape buffalo, is the largest subspecies and weight up to 910 kilograms (2,010 pounds).
The diet of an African Buffalo consists of grass and other vegetation.
Being large animals they can easily overheat, so they feed mostly during the cool night, and rest during the heat of the day.
They can run at speeds of up to 57 kilometers (35 miles) per hour.
African buffalo are social animals and live in groups called herds.
Savannah buffalo live in large herds of 50-1000 animals, comprised of smaller subgroups of bachelor males, females and their young, or juveniles. Old males may be solitary. Forest buffalo live in smaller mixed herds of 8-20 animals.
Herds of African buffalos appear to have a unique way of deciding in which direction to move: they vote on it! When the herd is ready to move on after resting, individuals start to stand up and face the direction in which they wish to move. Eventually, when enough members have ‘voted’, the dominant female leads the herd off in the direction that most of the individuals have faced.
Buffaloes mate and give birth only during the rainy seasons. Birth peak takes place early in the season, while mating peaks later.
Usually, they have one calf at a time, and the female will carry the calf for a gestation period of 11 months before giving birth.
Newborn calves remain hidden in vegetation for the first few weeks while being nursed occasionally by the mother before joining the main herd. Older calves are held in the center of the herd for safety.
Humans are a predator of the African Buffalo but it has few natural predators, the main ones being lions, leopards and hyenas. It takes several lions to bring down a fully grown African Buffalo but leopards and spotted hyenas are only a threat to calves.
If one individual is under attack from a predator, the herd will rush to the victim’s defence, and a herd is easily capable of driving away an entire pride of lions.
With its bulky build and thick horns, the African buffalo is considered to be a very dangerous animal as they gore and kill over 200 people every year.
The African buffalo is a member of the so-called “Big Five” group of animals, with the elephant, rhino, lion and leopard.
Being a member of the big-five game family, a term originally used to describe the five most dangerous animals to hunt, the Cape buffalo is a sought-after trophy, with some hunters paying over $10,000 for the opportunity to hunt one. The larger bulls are targeted for their trophy value, although in some areas, buffaloes are still hunted for meat.
The African buffalo is not endangered and has a population of 900,000, of which more than three-quarters are in protected areas.