African buffaloes: Majestic and robust

The African Buffalo, or Cape Buffalo, is a bovine species that is widely spread across Africa. It belongs to the famous "Big Five". Usually, African buffaloes form large herds. Learn more about this majestic animal



Grown up buffalos can reach a shoulder height of 1,7 meters, a body length of up to 3,4 meters and can weigh around 1000 kg. There are enormous differences between the subspecies: The Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), home in the east African savannah, is almost twice the size of the Forest buffalo from the rain forests of Central Africa.

The calves are fully covered with hair, but they will lose more and more of it while they get older. Old animals are almost totally naked. The Cape buffalo is very dark in colour, from a dark brown to almost black (females are often a bit lighter in colour) and the Forest buffaloes have a red-brownish colour, both subspecies can show different variations of brown shades.
Both sexes are equipped with heavy horns, which are linked together by a so-called boss, a bone shield-structure on top of their head. Below you can see the small ears. Cape buffaloes have much larger horns than forest buffalos.



Der Afrikanische Büffel der Art Syncerus caffer hat stets nur südlich der Sahara gelebt. Eine weitere Art, Syncerus antiquus, kam auch nördlich der Sahara vor, starb aber vor langem aus. Der Afrikanische Büffel hat sich an viele unterschiedliche Lebensräume angepasst, vom dichten Regenwald bis zur offenen Savanne. In den Bergen findet man ihn bis in 3.000 m Höhe. Am dichtesten sind die Bestände in offenen Baumsavannen mit ganzjährig gutem Angebot von Trinkwasser, Nahrung (Gräser und Triebe) und schützendem Dickicht. übertragen, in einigen Fällen wurden Menschen von tollwütigen Erdmännchen gebissen und infiziert.


The Cape buffalo, Syncerus caffer, has only lived south of the Sahara. Another species, Syncerus antiquus, was also found north of the Sahara, but has gone extinct centuries ago. From open savannah to thick rainforest, the Cape buffalo was able to adapt to many different habitats. They can even be found in the mountains at 3000 meters. But the highest population numbers can be found in the open African tree-savannah with enough water, food and securing bushes all ear around.


Social structure

African buffalos live in herds which stay in one area over the year and roam through their territory, always following the same routes. The herd mostly involved females and their young ones. During mating season, bulls join the herd. Next to these big herds there are bachelor herds with young bulls. A herd of cape buffalos can reach from 50 to 500 animals, while forest buffalos live in much smaller herds of 8 to 20. If there are a couple of males within one herd, fights occur more often to settle the hierarchy.
Buffalos mostly eat at night and drink early in the morning and late in the afternoon. They rest during the hottest time of the day.
A calf is born after a 340-day pregnancy. Often many cows give birth at the same time. Male calves stay with their mother for about two years before they must leave the herd, while females stay with one herd for their whole life. When they reach the age of four or five, they become sexually mature. In the wild buffaloes usually have a life expectancy of 20 years, in zoos they can reach up to 30 years.


Next to us humans, buffaloes do not really have enemies. Lions and leopards sometimes try to hunt down young or injured buffaloes. But the healthy animals of a herd can defend themselves, so that some predators pay their courage with severe injuries. Single adult buffaloes can get killed by lions and big crocodiles can catch buffalos when they cross rivers or come close to the water to drink.


Büffel und Menschen

The Cape buffalo is known to be one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. From time to time there are reports that bulls have attacked humans and stabbed them. These stories are often made up by hunters because having killed a dangerous animal was better for their reputation. In these cases, most of the bulls which acted aggressive were already wounded. Today it is no problem to drive by a grazing herd while on a safari.

The excessive hunt of buffalos which was mostly only for pleasure led to the extermination of the species in some African countries and the reduction of population numbers. In South Africa the buffalo was extinct for a couple of years but has been introduced back to some national parks.

During our field guide courses in Kenya and Southern Africa you have the chance to observe the majestic Cape buffalo and learn more about this interesting species.

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