Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Cape Buffalo or African Buffalo

Syncerus caffer


African buffalo are very large bovines that can grow to be 2,100 mm- 3,000 mm long and a shoulder height of about 1,000-1,700 mm. These animals have large heads, limbs and broad chests. This species has large, droopy ears and large horns which can be spread out and downward, upward, or out and back. Males have horns that are joined by a shield covering their head, called a boss. Young African buffalo have dense hair until they mature and have sparse brown to black hair.


The African buffalo can be found in the middle of the African continent, with a range from south of the Sahara to north of South Africa. This species prefers arid biomes such as areas with rivers, lakes and swamps with dense cover. African buffalo can also be found in open woodlands.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

This species is an herbivorous grazer. Buffalo move toward water to feed on low nutrient grass during the dry season when pastures have diminished. During the rainy season these buffalo graze heavily on the new grasses. African buffalo must have access to water at least once every day.


Breeding occurs year round in African buffalo, with peaks occurring with seasonal rainfall. Mating usually occurs at the end of the wet season and calves are born during the second half of the following wet season after a gestation period of 340 days. Female African buffalo usually give birth to a single calf. Male calves reach sexual maturity after 8-9 years but only remain with their mother for two years before joining a bachelor group while female calves reach sexual maturity after 5 years and remain with their mother until they produce their own young.

Months and Times of Activity

This species travels in large, non-territorial herds with a linear dominance hierarchy. Males form bachelor groups of 3-4 individuals with a dominance hierarchy during the dry season. African buffalo graze for 8.5-10.4 hours grazing during the day and even more time is spent grazing at night.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

  • African buffalo are very dangerous and powerful, they can run up to 57 km/hr. These animals have even been considered as the most dangerous big game species in Africa. Bulls are even known to stalk and attack humans.
  • To read legends featuring this animal go to:
  • Children’s book featuring this animal: ANIMORPHS The Hidden by K.A. Applegate


Newell, T. 2000. "Syncerus caffer" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 03, 2014 at