African Buffalo Fact File
The African buffalo is among the largest herbivores in Africa. They can measure between 2.4 and 3.4m (7.75-11ft) long and stand 1.5m (4.9ft) tall. Their weight varies between 500 and 900kg (1,110-1,985lbs).
Males are larger than females sometimes by as much as twice as much. The horns of males will meet on top of the forehead.
At the end of the body is a tail which measures between 75 and 110cm (30 and 43in) long.
Their body shape is similar to a cow and they are the only cow like animal in Africa. The large body is covered with a sparse coat of dark brown fur. On either side of the head are large, droopy ears covered with hair. Their large feet end with a rounded hoove. These are located at the end of the legs which are short relative to their body size. On the throat males have a small fringe of fur known as the dewlap.
On top of the head are a pair of horns which taper to a point and are shaped like a “C.” These horn can reach up to 1.3m (4ft) in length.
The African buffalo is a herbivore. Their diet includes leaves, herbage and grasses.
As a ruminant they will bring cud back up in their mouth from the stomach and chew it again to ensure they extract the greatest amount of energy and nutrients from their food.
Wild 15-25 years
Captive 29 years
Africa is the native home of the African buffalo as their name suggests. Here they can be found in the following countries – Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, United Republic of, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The species has gone extinct in Eritrea, Gambia and Lesotho. They went extinct in Eswatini but have since been reintroduced there.
African buffaloes make their home across a large range which covers many habitats including bushland, woodland, grassland, forest, savanna and rainforest.
They are reliant on water and are not often found more than 15km (9 miles) from a water source.
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Males will mate with many females throughout the breeding season. They fight for dominance and breeding rights with other males by pressing and ramming their heads together. Males are not involved in raising the young.
A single calf is born after a gestation period of 340 days. On rare occasions twins have been born. At birth the calf weighs between 23 and 40kg (50-90lbs).
Within 10 minutes of the birth the calf will get to its feet and it is only a few hours before they begin to follow their mother.
A calf is fully dependent on its mother and will suckle milk for up to 1 year.
In the event a female loses her calf it will be cared for by another female until she it is reunited with its mother.
A female will typically remain with her birth herd while the male will leave to join a new group.
Females reach sexual maturity at five years old while this occurs for males at eight years old. A female will typically breed once every two years.
The African buffalo forms symbiotic relationships with birds such as the oxpecker. They will pick parasites such as lice, ticks or fleas off the body of the buffalo.
They live in groups which may number in to the thousands. These provide protection against predators.
Males are solitary or will form a group of between five and ten members.
Most of their feeding takes place at night though may also occur during cool periods of the day. Much of their day is spent feeding as they must eat large amounts of grass each day.
They can run at speeds of as much as 59.5km/h (37mph).
Predators and Threats
Humans reduce their population through hunting both for trophies and meat. They face food completion from introduced goats and cattle. These animals can also spread diseases which may infect the buffalo.
A further threat to their survival is habitat loss due to the expansion of human habitats.
During the 1800s their population was significantly reduced by a disease known as rinderpest.
African buffaloes are said to have good memories and will attack people who have hurt them previously.
They African buffalo is a member of the “Big Five” African animals along with the elephant, rhinoceros, lion and leopard.
There are four subspecies of the African buffalo. These are the cape buffalo, African forest buffalo, West Africa savanna buffalo and the Central Africa savanna buffalo. Each has a different coloration, size or horn shape.
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Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley
Bayly, S., 2020. The Illustrated Encyclopaedia Of Dangerous Animals. Sydney: Hachette Australia, pp.9-10.
IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group. 2019. Syncerus caffer. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T21251A50195031. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T21251A50195031.en. Downloaded on 31 October 2020.
African Wildlife Foundation. 2020. The Most Abundant Large Herbivore In Africa Is On A Downward Trend.. [online] Available at: <https://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/african-buffalo> [Accessed 31 October 2020].
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