One of the most dangerous of all Africa’s animals as far as people are concerned, these buffaloes are fearless, and equipped with fearsome horns. They can be very aggressive, and have been known to inflict fatal injuries on lions. Accordingly, lions tend to be reluctant to tackle these large buffalo unless they are very hungry.

African buffalo

They form herds of between 50 and 500 individuals. These herds are most common in dry habitats, such as grasslands and woodland, and less so in dense rainforests.

African buffaloes are giant animals with huge heads. Both sexes have curved horns that are connected by a thick boss on the forehead. This boss is most developed in the males to protect the head during fights.

Herds contain cows that are closely related to each other. Calves less than two years old stay with their mothers. Young bulls leave the herd after two years and join smaller, single-sexed, bachelor herds. There is a hierarchy of dominance within the bachelor herd, with rigorous competition for the top spots. This competition reaches its peak as the rainy season arrives, when the bulls join the main herd and compete for the cows. Cows take their time to select a mate, waiting to attract as high-ranking an individual as possible. Highly ranked bulls tend to be large and aggressive and will therefore produce large male offspring, which will grow up to become successful breeders themselves. In addition, any female offspring will also prefer to breed with large males.

The significant differences in appearance between plains and forest African buffaloes is related to their environment. Those living in forests have horns that are only 30 cm (12 in) long, as large horns here would be a handicap. The smaller size of the forest buffaloes enables them to move more easily through the vegetation and escape if danger threatens. They form smaller herds for this reason too, keeping in touch with each other by 'lowing' calls, like cattle.

Distribution: Occurs in much of Africa south of the Sahara, but sporadic distribution in Guinea and adjacent areas; largely absent now from southern parts of the continent.

Habitat: Grasslands and woodlands.

Weight: 250 - 900 kg (551 - 1984 lb); males are heavier, as are buffalo from plains populations compared with those living in forests.

Length: 220 - 450 cm (87 - 177 in).

Maturity: Females able to produce young at 5 years; males start to breed at 8.

Gestation Period: About 340 days; weaning occurs at 6 months.

Breeding: Single calves born in rainy season after a gestation of about 11 months. Twins are very rare. Females typically produce young every two years.

Food: Herbivorous, grazing on grass, herbs and swamp vegetation.

Lifespan: 18 years in the wild; up to 29 in captivity.

Status: Lower risk.


Particularly large in males, the horns can reach up to 160 cm (63 in) long.


This can vary from black in male plains buffaloes through to red in the case of those inhabiting forests.

Body shape

A wide chest and a muscular, barrel-shaped body emphasizes the power of these buffaloes.


Scratching on a tree trunk may ease irritation caused by ticks, which are often removed from the buffalo’s body by birds called oxpeckers.

Water buffalo

Water buffalo were first domesticated thousands of years ago, probably in India. They now play a vital part in the rural economies of Southeast Asia, but unfortunately they also represent a major threat to the survival of their wild ancestor because of cross-breeding. There are currently believed to be fewer than 4000 pure water buffalo left throughout Asia. Strict segregation in reserves seems to be the only hope of ensuring the survival of this species.

Distribution: Populations survive in parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, plus the border region between Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Weight: 800 - 1200 kg (1800 - 2600 lb); females are lighter.

Length: 240 - 300 m (94 - 118 in).

Food: Green grass and water vegetation.

Maturity: 18 months.

Breeding: Usually 1 calf; cows give birth every 2 years.

Life span: 25 years.

Lowland Anoa

The anoa is the smallest of the buffaloes, an adult male standing only 27 to 42 in (69 to 106 cm) at the shoulder. However, it is stockily built, with a thick neck and short, heavy horns, which are at most 15 in (38 cm) long. Although wary, the anoa is aggressive when cornered. Juveniles have thick, woolly, yellow-brown hair, which becomes dark brown or blackish, blotched with white, in adults; old animals may have almost bare skins. Perhaps because of this, anoas appear to enjoy bathing and wallowing in mud. They feed alone during the morning, mainly on water plants and young cane shoots, then spend the rest of the day lying in the shade, generally in pairs. They only form herds just before the females are due to calve. Usually 1 young is born after a gestation of 9‘4 to 10 months.

When unmolested, anoas have a life span of 20 to 25 years, but destruction of their normal habitat has driven them into inaccessible, swampy forest, and their survival is further threatened by unrelenting hunting for their horns, meat and thick hides.

Range: Sulawesi.

Habitat: Lowland forest.

Size: Body: 5 1/4 - 5 1/2 ft (1.6 - 1.7 m); Tail: 7 - 12 1/2 in (18 - 31 cm).