African buffalo

Syncerus caffer

The African buffalo, affalo, nyati, Mbogo or Cape buffalo is a large African bovine. It is not closely related to the slightly larger wild Asian water buffalo, but its ancestry remains unclear. Owing to its unpredictable nature which makes it highly dangerous to humans, it has not been domesticated unlike its Asian counterpart the domestic Asian water buffalo.
Night Encounter One of Africa's most dangerous animals  African buffalo,Geotagged,South Africa,Syncerus caffer,Winter


The African buffalo is a very robust species. Its shoulder height can range from 1 to 1.7 m and its head-and-body length can range from 1.7 to 3.4 m . The tail can range from 70 to 110 cm long. Savannah type buffaloes weigh 500 to 910 kg , with males, normally larger than females, reaching the upper weight range. A record-sized savannah-type male weighed 1,000 kg . Forest type buffaloes, at 250 to 455 kg , are only half that size. Its head is carried low, its top located below the backline. The front hooves of the buffalo are wider than the rear, which is associated with the need to support the weight of the front part of the body, which is more powerful than the back

Savannah type buffalo have black or dark brown coats with age. Old bulls have whitish circles around their eyes. Females tend to have more reddish coats. Forest type buffalo are reddish brown in colour with horns that curve out backwards and upwards. Calves of both types have red coats.

The horns of African buffalo are very peculiar. A characteristic feature of them is the fact that the adult bull's horns have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as a "boss," which can not always be penetrated even by a rifle bullet. From the base the horns diverge, then bend down, and then smoothly curve upwards and outwards. The distance between the ends of the horns of large bulls is more than a metre. The young buffalo horn boss forms fully only upon reaching the age of 5–6 years. In cows the horns are, on average, 10-20% less, and the boss is less prominent. Forest buffalo horns are much smaller and weaker than those of the savannah buffaloes and are almost never fused. They rarely reach a length of even 40 cm.
Cape buffalo Mother and calf from a huge herd of at least 800 African buffalo,Botswana,Geotagged,Syncerus caffer


* ''Syncerus caffer caffer'' - typical subspecies, the largest one, with large males weighing up to 910 kg . It is peculiar to South and East Africa. Buffalos of this subspecies living in the south of the continent, notably high in size and ferocity - the so-called cape buffalo. Color of this subspecies is the darkest, almost black.
⤷  ''S. c. nanus'' - smallest subspecies - the height at the withers less than 120 cm and average weight of about 270 kg . Color dwarf buffalo red, with darker patches on the head and shoulders in the ears form a brush. Dwarf buffalo is common in forest areas of Central and West Africa. This subspecies is so different from the standard model, which some researchers consider it still a separate species S. nanus Between the typical subspecies and dwarf hybrids are not uncommon
⤷  ''S. c. brachyceros'' , who is in morphological terms intermediate between those two subspecies. Occurs in West Africa . Its dimensions are relatively small, especially compared to other buffalo, found in Cameroon, which weigh half as the South African subspecies is considered to be in these places are already very large).
⤷  ''S. c. aequinoctialis'' , which is confined to Central Africa . It is similar to the Cape buffalo, but somewhat smaller, and its color is lighter.
⤷  ''S. c. mathewsi'' . It lives in mountainous areas of East Africa.
A sleepy cape buffalo || Lake Nakuru || Aug 2017 African buffalo,Syncerus caffer


The current status of African Cape buffalo is dependent on the existence of the animal's value to both trophy hunters and tourists, paving the way for conservation efforts through anti-poaching patrols, village crop damage payouts, and CAMPFIRE payback programs to local areas.

The buffalo is listed as Least Concern as the species remains widespread, with a global population estimated at nearly 900,000 animals, of which more than three-quarters are in protected areas. While some populations are decreasing, others will remain unchanged in the long term if large, healthy populations continue to persist in a substantial number of national parks, equivalent reserves and hunting zones in southern and eastern Africa.

In the past, numbers of African Buffalo suffered their most severe collapse during the great rinderpest epidemic of the 1890s, which, coupled with pleuro-pneumonia, caused mortalities as high as 95% among livestock and wild ungulates.

Being a member of the Big Five Game family, a term originally used to describe the 5 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 buffalo are still hunted for meat.
Buffalo and young Seen in the early morning. It was a mostly cloudy day, but we were fortunate that the sun peaked through at the same time that we came across the herd of buffalo - made for a very nice shot. African buffalo,Buffalo,Cape Buffalo,Fall,Geotagged,Mammals,Syncerus caffer,Zimbabwe


Herd size is highly variable. The basic herds consist of related females, and their offspring, in an almost linear dominance hierarchy. The basic herds are surrounded by sub-herds of subordinate males, high-ranking males and females and old or invalid animals. The young males keep their distance from the dominant bull, who is recognizable by the thickness of his horns.

During the dry season, male buffalo will split from the herd and form bachelor groups. There are two types of bachelor herds: ones made of males aged 4–7 years and those of males 12 years or older. During the wet season the younger bulls rejoin a herd to mate with the females. They stay with them throughout the season to protect the calves. Some older bulls cease to rejoin the herd, as they can no longer compete with the younger, more aggressive males. Males have a linear dominance hierarchy which is based on age and size. Since a buffalo is safer when a herd is larger, dominant bulls may rely on subordinate bulls and sometimes tolerate their copulation.

Adult bulls will spar in play, dominance interactions or actual fights. A bull will approach another lowing with his horns down and wait for the other bull to do the same thing. When sparring the bulls twist their horns from side to side. If the sparring is for play the bulls may rub each other's faces and bodies during the sparring session. Actual fights are violent but rare and brief. Calves may also spar in play but adult females rarely spar at all.

African buffalo are notable for their apparent altruism. Female buffalo appear to exhibit some sort of "voting behavior". During resting time, the females will stand up, shuffle around, and sit back down again. They will sit in the direction they think that they should move. After an hour of more shuffling, the females will travel in the direction they decide on. This decision is communal and not based on hierarchy or dominance. When chased by predators a herd will stick close together and make it hard for the predators to pick off one member. Calves are gathered in the middle. A buffalo herd will respond to the distress call of a captured member and try to rescue it. A calf's distress call will get the attention of not only the mother but also the herd. Buffalo will engage in mobbing behavior when fighting off predators. They have been recorded treeing lions for two hours, after the lions have killed a member of their group. Lion cubs can get trampled and killed. In one videotaped instance, known as the Battle at Kruger, a calf survived an attack by both lions and a crocodile after intervention of the herd.
Cape Buffalo  African buffalo,Buffalo,Geotagged,Hluhluwe,KwaZulu Natal,South Africa,Syncerus caffer,Winter


The African buffalo is one of the most successful grazers in Africa. It lives in swamps, floodplains as well as mopane grasslands and forests of the major mountains of Africa. Buffalo prefer habitat with dense cover such as reeds and thickets. Herds have also been found in open woodland and grassland. While not particularly demanding with regard to habitat, they require water daily and therefore depend on perennial sources of water. Like the Plains zebra, the buffalo can subsist on tall, coarse grasses. Herds of buffalo will reduce grass level to the height that is preferred by selective grazers. When feeding, the buffalo makes use of its tongue and wide incisor row to eat grass more quickly than most other African herbivores. Buffalo do not stay on trampled or depleted areas for long.

Other than humans, African buffalo have few predators and are capable of defending themselves against lions. Lions do kill and eat buffalo regularly, but it typically takes multiple lions to bring down a single adult buffalo. However there have been several incidents in which lone adult male lions have been able to successfully bring down large bulls. The Nile crocodile will typically attack only old solitary animals and young calves. The cheetah, leopard and spotted hyena are a threat only to newborn calves, though spotted hyenas have been recorded to kill full grown bulls on occasion.
Cape buffalo below the sausage tree  African buffalo,Botswana,Geotagged,Syncerus caffer


Buffalo mate and give birth strictly during the rainy seasons. Birth peak takes place early in the season while mating peaks later. A bull will closely guard a cow that comes into heat, while keeping other bulls at bay. This is difficult as cows are quite evasive and attract many males to the scene. By the time a cow is in full estrous only the most dominant bull in the herd/subherd is there.

Cows first calve at five years of age, after a gestation period of 11.5 months. Newly born calves remain hidden in vegetation for the first few weeks while being nursed occasionally by the mother before joining the main herd. Calves are held in the centre of the herd for safety.
The maternal bond between mother and calf lasts longer than in most bovids. However when a new calf is born the bonding ends and the mother will keep her previous offspring out of the way with horn jabs. Nevertheless the yearling will still tag along for another year or so. Males leave their mothers when they are two years old and join the bachelor groups.


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Status: Least concern | Trend: Down
SpeciesS. caffer