Cape Buffalo Facts
Latin name: Syncerus caffer
Weight: Females up to 700 kg. Males up to 1000 kg.
Lifespan: 17 years
Gestation Period: 11 months
Habitat: Grassland and open woodlands
The Cape buffalo is considered by many to be the most dangerous of the big 5. Large herds of buffalo are generally relaxed when compared to single buffalo or small groups, which are extremely unpredictable. Lone bulls are very nervous as they don’t have the safety and security of numbers and are therefore very quick to charge at any sign of danger. A charging buffalo is difficult to stop and many hunters have fallen victim to them, even after shooting warning shots.
Large breeding herds can reach up 1500 individuals, rarely more. With so many buffalo, the herd has to keep on the move in search of good grazing and water. The old, sick and weak individuals often fall behind until eventually losing their herd. Old bulls that were previously with the herd will often form small groups known as bachelor herds. The bachelors normally settle down into smaller areas of 5 or 10 km² that has sufficient water and food to survive on. When the breeding herds pass through their area, they will sometimes rejoin for a short period before remaining behind once again.
Another name for an old buffalo bull is “dagga boy”. Dagga is the mixture sand, water and cement, used in building, a dagga boy is the person that mixes the dagga. Old buffalo bulls love wallowing in mud and after sitting in the sun for a while, the dried mud on their bodies looks like the dried cement on a dagga boy’s arms and legs, hence the nick name.
Mud wallowing is very good for the buffalo’s skin as it helps remove unwanted parasites such as ticks and mites. When an animal submerges into water, a small air-bubble develops around the tick’s mouth, where the mouth enters the host’s skin. This air-bubble supplies the tick with extra oxygen, allowing it to stay under water without drowning. Mud on the other hand is too thick to allow for these small air-bubbles, resulting in the suffocation of ticks. After good wallowing session, the buffalo then rubs its body against, large rocks, trees or termite mounds to remove the mud along with the ticks.
The horns of buffalo give a good indication of the sex. The male’s horns are slightly thicker than the females and the male has a very prominent boss. The bull in particular makes a regular habit of rubbing and polishing his horns and boss on trees. The purpose of this may be to prevent flies from laying eggs in the cracks of its horns. Eggs laid in the horns eventually hatch into larva and start boring through the keratin layers causing significant damage to the buffalo’s horns.
The buffalo is a herbivore, feeding mostly on grass but in the drier seasons they will also eat more leaves.
Within a breeding herd there are a number of dominant males. Only these males are able to mate with the females. At the age of 5 years the female gives birth to her first calf after a gestation of 11 months. The newborn calf has a light brown to auburn colouration which helps camouflaging it while being hidden away and suckled for the first few weeks, until it is strong enough to keep up with the herd. The calf will often stay with its mother until the time when she gives birth to a new calf, which is around every 2 years.
Lions are capable of hunting mature buffalo which may take just a few minutes to pull down or even a couple hours with less experienced lion. Spotted hyena and leopard normally hunt the young calves which are less of a risk as buffalo often team together and put up a good fight and are very capable of killing lions and the other predators.
Cape buffalo have a very low white blood cell count when compared to other animals which results in a weak immune system and makes them susceptible to diseases such as foot and mouth disease and bovine tuberculoses.
The tuberculosis is extremely contagious and by sharing the same drinking water it spreads very quickly through the herd. Buffalo that have T.B. can live for many years as long as they aren’t malnutritioned. During dry seasons or drought the effects of the T.B. may kill many buffalo.
Predators such as lion that hunt T.B. infected buffalo are also at risk after eating the meat of these animals.
Labels: Cape Buffalo