Cape Buffalo

The Cape buffalo, also known as African buffalo is a large and formidable African bovine. This typical subspecies is widely found in parts of Southern and Eastern Africa. They are regarded as dangerous animals, killing over 200 people every year. The Cape buffalo is the only member of the buffalo tribe, bovine.

Cape Buffalo

Cape Buffalo


Read more to know about this dangerous subspecies;

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class:      Mammalia

Order:    Artiodactyla

Family:   Bovidae

Subfamily: Bovinae

Genus:   Syncerus

Species: S. caffer

Binomial name: Syncerus caffer

Physical Description

  • Body: The African buffalo has a long but stocky body. The front hooves of the buffalo are wider than the rear.
  • Color: Savannah type buffaloes have dark brown or black coats with age. Forest type cape buffaloes are reddish brown in color with hair growth around the ears. Calves of both types have red coats.

  • Height: They have a shoulder height of 3.3 to 5.6 ft. their head and body length range 5 – 11 ft.
  • Weight: Savannah type buffaloes weigh 500-1000kg and forest type buffaloes weigh 250-450kg.
  • Tail & Horns: Their tails stretches to a length of 70-110cm. A characteristic feature of their horns is that they curve back and slightly up. The distance between the ends of two horns can reach upwards till one meter. Forest buffaloes have smaller horns compared to savannah buffaloes.

Cape Buffalo

Cape Buffalo


Cape buffaloes thrive in virtually all type of grassland habitat, from dry savannah to swamp and from lowland floodplains to mixed forest. They prefer habitat with a dense cover like reeds and thickets. These buffaloes need water daily and thus, depend on perennial sources for water.


They are well distributed in South Africa and are also found in the rainforests of central and West Africa. Cape buffaloes are the largest subspecies to be found in southern and east Africa. They are largely seen in countries like Guinea, Ethiopia, Togo, Uganda, Somalia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Distribution of Cape Buffalo

Distribution of Cape Buffalo


Buffalo herds have an ecological impact on the veld. Known for being a bulk grazer, they can convert long grasslands into short grassy environments. These buffaloes are capable of living on tall and coarse grasses. When feeding, they make use of their tongue and wide incisor row to eat grass more quickly. If the grass is not available, buffaloes browse for woody vegetation.

Diet of Cape Buffalo

Diet of Cape Buffalo


Explore their amazing behavioural traits;

  • African buffaloes are gregarious creatures.
  • They lead a highly social life
  • Adult bulls spar in play.
  • African buffaloes are notable for their apparent altruism.
  • African buffaloes are active throughout the day.
  • They spend 18 hours per day moving and foraging.
  • When chased by predators, a herd sticks close together and makes it difficult for the predators to attack.
  • Cape buffaloes engage in mobbing behaviour when fighting with predators.

Reproduction & Life cycle

Their mating season starts from the month of March and continues till May. A bull closely guards a cow that comes into heat, keeping other bulls at bay. This is not easy, as cows are evasive and can attract many males at a time.

Reproduction of Cape Buffalo

Reproduction of Cape Buffalo

Their babies are called calf. Female buffaloes carry one calf at a time for a gestation period of 9 to 11 months. Newborns are kept hidden in vegetation for the first few weeks and are taken care of by the mothers before joining the herd.

The bond between the calf and mother stays for a longer period than in most bovids. The bonding ends when a new calf is born. Males leave their mothers after they are two years old.


They have a lifespan of 25 years.


Other than humans, cape buffaloes have few predators like lions and large crocodiles. Other than these, buffaloes are often attacked by hyenas, leopards, and wild dogs in wild. In some places, buffaloes are still hunted for meat.


Cape buffaloes are susceptible to many diseases including bovine tuberculosis, mouth disease, corridor, and foot disease. These diseases restrict the legal movements of the animals.

Interesting facts

  • They are one of the most successful grazers in Africa.
  • Cape buffaloes spend most of their time in the water.
  • They lie under trees to keep cool.
  • They are highly dangerous to humans.

Conservation Status

The Cape buffalo is listed as least concern by the IUCN.


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