by Wildlife South Africa

Latin Name: Syncerus caffer
Afrikaans: BUFFEL


Distribution in South Africa:

Buffaloes occur naturally in Kruger National Park and surrounding private game reserves, Addo National Park and Hluhluwe / Imfolozi KwaZulu-Natal Park amongst others. They are also found in various provincial reserves and also on private game reserves and game farms where they were reintroduced.

Buffaloes are carriers of foot and mouth disease and they also suffer from bovine tuberculosis. Therefore they are not allowed beyond certain areas (red line areas) as they might infect other animals, more particularly cattle. All buffaloes that are reintroduced outside of these areas, are bred elsewhere and are so-called disease free buffaloes.


Buffaloes prefer open savannah grassland, and areas in the bushveld with abundant long grass. They are often found in reeds, near water. Buffaloes also regularly frequent dense mopanie-veld.


Buffaloes need a good fresh water supply as they love to cool down and also drink water daily. Bulls especially like to lie in water and mud hollows where they can roll in the mud and take mud baths to rid themselves of flies, horseflies and ticks. Buffaloes are gregarious and in South Africa (Kruger National Park) herds of up to 500 and more can congregate, consisting of dominant bulls and cows. In other parts of Africa herds of more than a 1000 animals can gather. Bulls are often found alone or form small bachelor herds, consisting of older and younger animals and varying in number from a few animals to about 10 and more.

Day or night:

Buffaloes graze mainly by night and early morning and rest up in shade during the heat of the day. They usually drink water during the day. Often at night buffalo herds will also lie down to rest for periods of time.

Difference between bull and cow:

Bulls are heavier and larger than cows and also have much heavier horns. The boss (part of the horn closest to the head) of a bull is much thicker broader and thus more prominent compared to a cow and also much wider.


Male: Bull - 650 to 800 kg.

Female: Cow - 550 to 700 kg


Mating takes place mainly during late summer and usually single calves are born from early to mid- summer. Cows normally give birth every two years.

Gestation period:

11 months


Can live up to 20 years

Diet / Food and water:

Buffaloes are primarily grazers (grass eaters), but will also browse on seed pods especially from acacia trees. They need water daily.


Lion, Leopard, Hyena, African Wild Dog, Crocodile, Humans.

Interesting facts:

Lions are often found following large or smaller herds of buffalo, while waiting for a chance to catch and kill one. However buffaloes are not that easy to catch, due to the fact that they will not always run away, but will group together (often forming a circle around the young) and try to stand their ground in an effort to defend their young and each other. Lions are also often injured or killed by buffaloes, especially by the bulls which can cause a lot of damage with their horns as well as by stomping on the lions with their hard hooves.

The Buffalo is one of the so called Big 5 animals, an old hunter’s term given to the 5 most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa. In the buffalo’s case it is mainly due to their dangerous and cunning nature. They do not have very good eyesight but their hearing and smell is exceptional. There are many hunting tales that mention wounded buffaloes setting ambushes for hunters that follow them, by circling back on their own tracks, to stand and wait for the hunters that are tracking them. A number of hunters were injured or killed by buffaloes through the years while hunting them.

References & Sources:
The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion,
Revised by D Skinner & Christian T Chimumba
Cambridge University Press 2005
Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa
Chris & Tilde Stuart
Struik Publishers
Third edition 2003
The Mammal Guide of Southern Africa
Burger Cillié
Briza Publications
Maberly's Mammals of Southern Africa - A popular Field Guide
A revision by Richard Goss of Charles Astley Maberly's - The Game Animals of Southern Africa
Delta Books (Pty) Ltd
Johan van der Walt