The term “buffalo” usually refers to the Cape or African Buffalo, as well as the Asian water buffalo. The major difference between these animals and the American Buffalo is that while the former is mostly dark in color, the latter has thick, silky fur.
The African buffalo, sometimes known as the Cape buffalo, is a big mammal native to Africa. It is one of the continent’s most effective grazers and can be found in floodplains, swamps, grasslands, and forests of Africa’s greatest mountains. These amazing creatures are part of Africa’s Big Five, the five most challenging animals to kill on foot. Other animals on the list include African lions, African elephants, leopards, and rhinoceros. Unlike the others, however, Cape buffalos take out more hunters and are highly prized.
But did you know that these herbivores have other amazing characteristics? Here are ten incredible facts you may not know about the African buffalo.
1. African buffalos have ranks
The social structure of the African buffalo is complicated and based on what scientists describe as a power structure. The size, strength, and maturity of buffalo and their relationships with other herd members determine their leadership. This implies that powerful males and females control the social stability of the herd.
The male and female animals move together in the same herd, with the center of the herd consisting of close females and sub-herds consisting of junior males and elderly animals. Afterward, the males separate from the group and establish bachelor herds during the dry season. During the rainy season, these groups reunite with the main herd to mate with the females. Strength in numbers is important to the African buffalo; hence, the larger the herd, the better equipped they are to defend themselves against predators.
2. Buffalos communicate with each other through vocalizations
According to researchers, African buffalos use five distinct vocal sounds to interact. The herd is directed to migrate by low-pitched sounds spaced 3 to 6 seconds apart. The herd is signaled to change directions by rougher varieties of this low-pitched sound.
African buffalos have also been heard producing extended “maaa” noises as they approach drinking holes. Researchers believe that this sound is simply an expression of happiness, satisfaction, or anticipation. The animals utter powerful grunts and thunderous growls to communicate hostility, mainly to other buffalo. Finally, when predators such as lions or crocodiles approach the herd, they make long “waaa” cries.
3. Buffalos give birth only during the rainy seasons
Before delivering new calves, buffalos carry their pregnancy for roughly 11 months. This, however, happens only during the wet season. Newborn calves have a greater chance of living during the rainy season because there is more food and drinkable water compared to the dry season. Calves spend about a year with their moms before becoming more self-sufficient within the herd. When the boys reach the age of two, they leave to join bachelor groups.
4. African buffalos vote
Scientists have uncovered a strange phenomenon in female African buffalo. They seem to vote on which way the herd should move. These animals sit on the floor during rest periods, facing where they believe the herd should migrate. When the resting period is over, the herd travels in the direction that most of the herd was pointing. The most interesting thing about this behavior is that it seems to be coordinated, and the dominant hierarchy doesn’t seem to affect how each Buffaloe votes.
5. Buffalos are unpredictable
Thanks to their unpredictability, African buffalos, unlike other species, have never been tamed. This, in addition to its massive size, lethal set of horns, and absence of predators, makes it a wild species worthy of respect for its position in the animal world. Among the main African mammals, only hippos and elephants pose a greater threat to humans than buffalo.
6. A buffalo’s weight is the same as that of your car
The shape and weight of the buffalo are two characteristics that set them apart. They are, in fact, North America’s largest animal. Bulls can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and measure up to 12 feet long and 6 feet tall. The large hump on top of their heads comprises robust, powerful muscles aiding snow removal. The hump also helps limit neck and head rotation, as their heads can weigh up to 75 pounds.
7. The horns of the African buffalo tell a lot of stories
The end parts of the adult male buffalo’s curved horns are so close that they join. This forms a kind of armor on their heads, known as a boss. The boss is not present in the horns of female buffalos, which allows for easy distinction between the male and female species. Also, the size of the horns – how big or thick they are – contributes to how they are ranked in the dominance hierarchy of the herd. The larger the horn size, the higher the rank of the buffalo. All of these go to show that you can get a lot of information from the horns of these animals.
8. The buffalo does not forgive a wrong
The African buffalo is second only to the elephant in terms of memory. While an elephant never forgets, a buffalo never forgives. Many hunting stories tell of injured buffalos that ambushed hunters who were following them or had assaulted them in the past. They return to their tracks to stand and wait for the hunters. In Africa, they kill more humans than any other animal. They’ve also been known to attack young lions from pride that had previously attacked and killed members of their herd. This is why they have been given the moniker “Black Death.”
9. The oxpecker and the buffalo are in a relationship
The oxpecker lives in sub-Saharan Africa and has a symbiotic relationship with the large hoofed mammals around them. These include antelopes, giraffes, zebras, rhinoceros, and cape buffalo. However, it is not entirely clear if what the oxpecker and its host are engaged in is symbiotic or semi-parasitic.
Except during nesting, which usually happens in tree cavities, all of the oxpecker’s life is spent on the body of its host. The oxpecker cannot do without this association as it gets its daily food from the animals and protection from predators.
10. Cape buffalo don’t move more than 10 miles away from their water source
Cape buffalo can’t go for long periods without drinking, and they’re seldom more than 10 miles from a source of drinking water. In the warmer months, they wrap themselves in mud and roll around. This helps them avoid insect bites and crush the ones on them.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © BonnieBC/Shutterstock.com
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