Water Buffalo

The wild form of this species was the ancestor of this domestic animal, but it is now considered to be in danger of extinction.

These large animals were domesticated as long ago as 5000 BC in southern China, 3000 BC in the Indus valley and 2000 BC in other parts of the Middle East. There are now estimated to be around 150 M domestic water buffalo around the world. So useful are these beasts that they have been introduced into many new areas, including Australia, South America, southern Europe and Hawaii.

Domestic water buffalo are very docile, produce excellent milk and meat, and are strong and easily managed work animals. In some areas, they form an important part of agricultural economies and ecosystems by providing a reliable and easily maintained source of power and by conserving wallowing sites that harbour a wide diversity of animal and plant life.

Wild water buffalo have the longest spread of horns of any cattle - up to 2 m (6.5 ft), measured along the outside edge.

Wild water buffalo from original undomesticated stock are very rare, and very few populations remain. These wild buffalo live in herds of up to 30 individuals, consisting of females and their young, led by elder females. During the dry season males live in bachelor groups away from the females, and in the wet season the dominant males enter herds to mate. The female herd leaders remain in charge of their groups even when bulls are present, and after mating the males are driven away.

Distribution: Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, South-east Asia, Malay peninsula, Borneo and Java. Introduced into many other areas, including South America, Europe, Australia and Hawaii.

Habitat: Wet grasslands, swamps and lush river valleys.

Food: Grass and aquatic vegetation, thus helping to prevent waterways becoming clogged.

Size: 2.4 - 3 m (8 - 10 ft); 700 - 1,250 kg (1,540 - 2,756 lb).

Maturity: 17 months.

Gestation Period: 310 - 350 days; weaning at 7 - 10 months.

Breeding: Single calf every 2 years.

Lifespan: Up to 25 years in the wild, and as long as 29 in captivity.

Status: Endangered in the wild; domestic population is common.


The span of the horns, from tip to tip, is wider than in any other bovid, typically measuring more than 2 m (6.5 ft).


Water buffalo are dark in colour.


Longer hair at the tip of the tail acts as a fly switch.

Importance of water water

buffalo live close to water, hiding among and feeding on the lush vegetation.


Wallowing in water keeps the water buffalo cool and its skin healthy. Birds will peck off larger parasites such as ticks.