All About the Buffalo

The term “buffalo” is often used to describe the American bison. Despite their popularity, the only true buffalo are found in Africa and Asia.

What You Should Know

True buffalo come in two variations: either the Cape or African buffalo and the Asian water buffalo.

Both of them are black or gray and resemble a bull. Early settlers to America called the bison buffalo because they looked similar in appearance.

Water buffalo live in the subtropical and tropical Asian forests. They spend the majority of their time in the water and have extra-wide hooves that prevent them from getting stuck in the mud. African buffalo don’t stray far from the water either. They prefer to live in savannas, grasslands, lowland floodplains, swamps, and mixed forests. They like lying under the trees to keep cool. Then, at night, they graze while the temperatures are lower.

The buffalo is a social animal that enjoys living in a herd. Water buffalos segregate by gender, while the African buffalo prefers to mix. Buffalo eat vegetation including herbs and grass, but the water buffalo will also munch on some aquatic plants.

What Sound Do They Make?

The buffalo makes mumble and grunting sounds. The mother often gargles when calling to a calf or to warn of danger. If the buffalo gets angry or scared, it will make an explosive, loud grunt.

You can enjoy the sounds of the water buffalo with this video.

Group Characteristics

Buffalo birth live young called calves. They typically only have one at a time and the mother carries it for nine to 11 months. Once it is born, the buffalo stays with the mom for up to three years. The female buffalo often reproduces every other year.

How Many are There?

The IUCN lists the water buffalo as endangered. They were domesticated about 5,000 years ago for the horns, milk, meat, and leather. They are also used to transport or pull plows. The population is thought to be less than 4,000 at this point. On the other hand, the African buffalo is not listed as endangered and is estimated with a population of 900,000.

Watch a Video

You can catch a glimpse of water buffalo in this YouTube video.

In this next video, you will see what happens to a lion when it attempts to attack the African buffalo.

Pop Culture

Probably the most well-known buffalo reference in pop culture is through the Veggie Tales famous Water Buffalo Song. Aside from that, the Cape buffalo has also made appearances in every Lion King movie from the series.

Another popular buffalo was Charlie from Crocodile Dundee. He first starred in the 1985 comedy with Mick Dundee, the crocodile hunter, played by Paul Hogan. In the movie, Charlie prepares to charge Mick but gets stared down. Then, Charlie had a follow-up role in the sequel, Crocodile Dundee II.

Interesting Facts

Male water buffalo have backward-curved horns. They grow to be five feet long. While the females also have horns, they measure much shorter.

The African buffalo keep a democracy. If they prepare to travel, they all stand together and turn in the direction. The most votes win and then the leader starts the journey.

African buffalo are also known to be aggressive. They have attacked humans in the past and may be responsible for up to 200 deaths per year. This species is also very protective of one another. They don’t allow any of the older or sick members of the herd to fall prey to predators. Buffaloes are also notorious for being the main attraction for big-game hunters, but they don’t go down without a fight.