Discover The Largest Buffalo (And Bison) Ever

Written by Emilio Brown
Updated: January 24, 2023
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Buffalos are large ruminants, and three species are classified with the name Buffalo. The American buffalo is the most controversial, as they are not buffalo but bison. American buffalo was a name given by early European settlers in America since they look similar to buffalos. Even though they are bison, they have plenty in common with buffalo and have taken the name for themselves. American buffalo, water buffalo, and Cape buffalo are the three well-known buffalo. They belong to the Bovidae family, including other animals like goats.

The two main buffalo species are the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and Asian water buffalo (Bubalus arnee). Since water buffalo have are agricultural, different breeds have formed to fit their use. The various water buffalo breeds are used for meat, dairy, and transporting goods. Two species of bison also exist the American Bison and European Bison.   

In this article, you will discover the largest Buffalo and learn all about them. Buffalos are very large and can even kill predators like lions. Then you’ll also discover the largest bison ever recorded as well. Let us learn about these ruminants and see how large they can get.¬†

What Is The Largest Buffalo 

wild water buffalo standing in field

Water buffalos can reach up to 2,600 pounds.

©David Havel/Shutterstock.com

Water buffalo or Asian water buffalo are the heaviest buffalo species on average.

American buffalo (bison) can grow taller, but the water buffalo will weigh more. Males, also called bulls, are heavier and larger than females. They reach a height of around 51 to 52 inches (129 to 133cm), and more giant bulls can reach up to 63 in (160cm) tall. The heaviest water buffalo weighs around 2,600 lbs (1,200 kg). On average, they will weigh around 660 to 1,200 lbs (300 to 550kg). One record the Asian water buffalo holds is having the largest horns of any living animal. Their horns average 3.4 ft (1m) long, but the largest ever recorded had horns 13.9 ft (4.24m) long.  

Water buffalo is one of the world’s largest Bovines. Even with their large size, they can run up to 30mph (48.2kmph). They originated from Southeast Asia, China, and India. Domestication has allowed them to spread their presence and inhabit  Australia, Europe, and the Americas. Labor, dairy products, and the meat they provide are why they have been domesticated for over 5,000 years. Water buffalos produce milk like cows, but it is more nutritious. 

Water buffaloes have lived in Asia and bred for thousands of years. In the wild, they live in tropical and subtropical forests. Rivers, mudholes, swamps, and other areas with water are where they enjoy living. The two types of water buffalo are the river and swamp buffalo, and they are named after their affinity for water. River buffalo are larger, but swamp buffalo are better for farming since they produce more milk. Wild water buffalo are a distinct species (Bubalus arnee) from domesticated water buffalo and live in a very small pockets scattered throughout Southeast Asia.

The Cape Buffalo 

World's Scariest Animal: Cape Buffalo

Cape buffalo can weigh nearly a ton.

©PACO COMO/Shutterstock.com

The Cape buffalo is smaller than the Asain water buffalo, but they are still large animals. Cape buffalo stand around 51 to 59 in (130 to 150cm) tall and weigh between 935 to 1910 lbs (425 to 870 kg). This species is also known as the African buffalo and uses its large size to defend itself from dangerous predators like lions and crocodiles. 

The Cape buffalo has the nickname Black Death due to how dangerous they are. In the wild, they have few predators and can run at 35 mph (56kph). Their large size and speed make them deadly to mess with, as they can quickly charge down anything in their way. 

A much smaller species than the Cape buffalo but is closely related is the African forest buffalo. They are also known as the dwarf buffalo, or the Congo buffalo, and are a subspecies of African buffalo. They only weigh around 550 to 705 lbs (250 to 320kg) and are one of the smallest buffalos in Africa.  

The Largest American Buffalo (Bison) Ever Recorded

Bearded Animals

The largest bison ever recorded weighed 3,800 pounds.

©iStock.com/Jillian Cooper

The largest bison ever recorded weighed about 3,800 pounds and was a large bull. Like many records, this is the subject of considerable debate.

On average, bison females will weigh about 1,000 pounds while males have a median weigh closer to a ton (2,000) pounds. Many sources list the largest bison ever recorded at 2,800 pounds, which appears to trace back to the weight of a large bull that was transferred from the New York Zoo to Oklahoma to begin repopulating the area with bison.

However, the National Bison Association produces a definitive Bison Producers’ Handbook that states that bison males can reach up to 3,500 pounds (see page 47 of their handbook). That figure makes more sense, as 2,800 pounds as a maximum size would only be 40% larger than a bison’s median weight.

The American Society of Mammalogists quotes a record of 3,800 pounds for a bull from 1978. While these are far from “official” records, its likely the largest bison have the capability of reaching above 3,000 pounds.

Bison Vs. Buffalo 

Bison are members of the Bovidae family and are also known as buffaloes. The American and European bison are the two species that exist. American bison live in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and the European bison live in Poland, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Lithuania. 

Bison have shorter horns and are shrouded in thick fur. They are usually the taller and larger than buffalos found in Asia and Africa and have larger heads and shoulders.

Bison and buffalo are not the same species, but both belong to the Bovidae family. Buffalo is a common name used for bison in the U.S and is a result of early settlers thinking they were buffalo. In the United States, Bison are an important animal and are the inspiration for many names for things like sports teams and cities. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Photo Spirit/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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