The existence of buffalos dates back to prehistoric times, and their perseverance symbolizes nature's resilience. Let's begin with two key buffalo facts. Despite their size, buffalos can reach up to 40 miles per hour, allowing them to outrun most predators.
Additionally, buffalos are expert swimmers, able to cross bodies of water, giving them more freedom to navigate diverse terrain. Read on for many more buffalo facts.
You might think that buffalos and bison are the same animals, but they are distinct species. The American bison inhabits the grasslands of North and South America, while the buffalo lives in Africa and Asia. For instance, you can find them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Wild bison have a distinctive hump at their shoulders, a large head, and short horns. On the other hand, African and Asian buffalos, also known as Cape buffalo and water buffalo, have large curved horns. Various African buffaloes also exist, like the forest buffalo, the West African savanna buffalo, and the Central Africa savanna buffalo.
Unlike bison, buffalos do not have a hump and are well-suited for marshy areas. Regarding temperament, African buffalo can be unpredictable and dangerous, while Asian buffalos are generally docile. Similarly, American bison are typically peaceful unless provoked.
The African buffalo is one of the largest land mammals2, weighing up to 2,866 pounds or 1,300 kilograms. Moreover, the common buffalo stands 1.7 meters tall and measures 3.4 meters long. Its features help it survive the rigors of its environment.
For example, the male buffalo's horns stretch 1.5 meters from tip to tip. When facing predators like lions, the buffalo defends itself with its horns, goring and flipping its attackers.
Likewise, the buffalo has a thick and shaggy coat, ranging from dark brown to nearly black. Besides its stylish look, it works like a built-in thermal blanket that helps the buffalo withstand harsh weather.
Despite their intimidating appearance, buffalos are generally gentle and pleasant. They use their strength to protect their herds rather than to intimidate others1.
The herd dynamics of buffalos show their desire for companionship; they form large herds with over a hundred members, working harmoniously according to their instinct for mutual protection.
When a buffalo calf is born, the herd surrounds the newborn calves in protective circles. They all pitch in to care for the new herd member rather than being aggressive toward others.
While interacting with other animals, buffalos are curious and gentle, only becoming aggressive when they sense danger near the herd.
The gestation period of buffalo mothers lasts nearly 11 months, aligned with the onset of the rainy season, which provides abundant resources, such as lush vegetation and water.
The female African buffalo exploits all these resources to help her calf develop. Once born, a buffalo calf stays close to the female buffalo for about a year, learning survival tactics and living within the herd. If the calf is male, he will leave his mother at two years old to join other bachelor herds.
Despite their size, buffaloes are skilled swimmers. They can swim gracefully and efficiently in the water, floating through their fat-filled bodies, which act like natural life jackets.
Buffalos swim to escape predators, find suitable grazing spots, and escape the heat. They can run for 40 km/h across the plains and dive into a river for a refreshing swim. Their strong legs help them move, their hoofs paddling underwater.
Wild buffalos can live for two decades, influenced by various factors such as food availability, diseases, predation pressures, and longevity. On the other hand, captive buffalos in zoos, national parks, or farms live for 25 years due to regular feeding and protection from threats.
Buffalos eat grasses and shrubs in the wild, depending on availability. However, farms provide buffalos with a more balanced diet of grains and hay.
Moreover, buffalos are susceptible to foot and mouth disease, brucellosis, and tuberculosis. An epidemic outbreak in the wild could reduce their lifespans. Meanwhile, sick captive buffalos usually receive prompt and adequate veterinary care.
While it may seem leisurely, wallowing in mud helps buffalo survive in their habitats. Since the massive buffalo generate a lot of heat, mud baths help regulate their body temperature, similar to personal air conditioning systems. The mud also protects their skin against the harsh sun.
Male and female buffalos also bond with their herd by wallowing in groups. Moreover, males roll around in the mud to show their strength to rivals or attractiveness to potential mates.
Next on our buffalo facts list: Besides their strength and social behaviors, African buffaloes communicate herd decisions by voting. Female buffalos vote in fair, democratic elections to decide where the herd goes next.
While resting, buffalos huddle together, each facing a direction of their choice, and the direction where the most buffalos face wins as their next destination. Afterward, the buffalo herd moves harmoniously in that direction.
Like elephants, the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) can remember past events, particularly negative ones. However, if the elephant doesn't forget, the buffalo never forgives.
These creatures hold grudges against those who have harmed them, whether rival animals or hunters. Some stories tell of how buffalos return to a spot where they got injured to ambush the perpetrator.
Curiously, buffalo grudges don't come from malice; they are part of the animal's survival instincts. For instance, African buffalos are one of the most dangerous animals on the African continent, killing more humans than any other creature. They also hold grudges against everything that harms their herd; they can kill lions or their cubs.
Their "eye for an eye" attitude has led to their label of "Black Death." However, we must remember that aggressive behavior is its means of socialization, memory retention, and self-defense.
Despite its role in balancing the ecosystem, the buffalo faces various threats. One example is the Asian water buffalo, which the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified as 'Endangered.' Hunters have killed them for their horns and meat, while human settlements and agriculture have destroyed their natural habitat.
Besides, wild buffalo are susceptible to livestock diseases; farm animals like domesticated cattle can transmit fatal diseases to buffalos. Conservation efforts have given these majestic creatures a fighting chance. Organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation and governments enforce buffer zones between human settlements and buffalo habitats. Besides, initiatives to control livestock diseases aim to stop disease transmission.
We hope you enjoyed this list of interesting facts about buffalo!
Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with B.
Prins, H. H. T. (1996). Ecology and Behaviour of the African Buffalo: Social Inequality and Decision Making. Chapman & Hall.
Sinclair, A. R. E. (1977). The African Buffalo: A Study of Resource Limitation of Populations. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.