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Bespoke Sustainable Eco-African Safari's

About Buffalo

Buffalo are part of the Big Five animals in Africa together with the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, and elephant. They are widely regarded as among the most dangerous animals on the African continent, and according to some estimates they gore, trample, and kill over 200 people every year.

The adult males are black or charcoal grey and have large heads and thick necks on their massive bodies with short limbs and short, coarse hair.

The horns grow from the thick bosses on the forehead and flare sideways and downwards and then curve upwards to the tip.

The male and female look practically identical although do differ in size and looking at the horns, you can see the male has a huge lump or ‘boss’. It looks like he is wearing a helmet. The female, on the other hand, has horns which slope nicely and no big ‘boss’ like her male counterpart.

Generally, the larger and thicker the horns of adult buffalo males belong to higher-ranked individuals.

Also known as Black Death, the Cape Buffalo can be extremely dangerous, and is said to have killed more big game hunters than any other animal in Africa.  An angry buffalo will circle and stalk its prey, waiting for the perfect moment to tear apart its opponent with its massive, thick horns.

These animals prefer open and wooded savanna with suitable grass cover, they graze shrubs and forbs in the early morning and late afternoon hours.  They need water every day and prefer leaves to stems as the leaves are more nutritious.

During the African summer the breeding herds are usually a few thousand strong and as the sun starts burning towards noon, they disappear into thick cover to rest.

They are not very difficult to spot because their movements are predictable, and you may notice the adult male will wallow in mud as protection against biting flies and to keep cool.

To obtain minerals and trace elements lick termite mounds and the mud stuck to their companions.

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.

Humans are a predator of the African Buffalo but, the main natural predator are 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.

African buffalo have a complex social structure based on what scientists call a “dominance hierarchy”. This means that social cohesion in the herd is largely governed by dominant males and females. Dominance is established by the strength, size and age of a buffalo combined with their interactions with other members of the herd. Both males and females travel together in the same herd, with a group of related females forming the core of the herd, while a group of subordinate males and older animals form sub-herds. Adding to this complexity, during the dry season males split off from the herd and form bachelor groups. These groups re-join the main herd in the wet season to mate with females. For the African buffalo, there is strength in numbers, so the larger the herd the more able they are to protect themselves from predators.

They can live in herds of a few hundred but have been known to congregate in thousands in the Serengeti during the rainy season.  Since a buffalo is safer when a herd is larger, dominant bulls may rely on subordinate bulls and sometimes tolerate their copulation. When chased by predators, a herd sticks close together and makes it hard for the predators to pick off one member. Calves are gathered in the middle. A buffalo herd responds to the distress call of a captured member and tries to rescue it. When being aggressive, they make explosive grunts that may last long or turn into a rumbling growl. Cows produce croaking calls when looking for their calves. Calves make a similar call of a higher pitch when in distress. When threatened by predators, they make drawn-out “waaaa” calls. When grazing, they make various sounds, such as brief bellows, grunts, honks, and croaks.

There is only one species of buffalo in Africa but four distinct subspecies exist: forest buffalo, West African savanna buffalo, Central African buffalo, and southern savanna buffalo (also known as the Cape buffalo).

Once a bull is very old and is no longer a breeding herd bull, he will become largely solitary. They are then often referred to as a “Dugga Bull”, meaning mud and is used to describe these old bulls as they spend most of their days wallowing in the mud feeding on the soft green grasses which occur on the side of the channels.

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