Buffalo are closely related to domestic cattle and sheep. They are cloven hoofed and both males and females have a single set of hollow, curved horns. The male buffalo is immense, weighing up to 1000 kg and standing at 5 to 6 feet at the shoulder. The females, called cows are not as massive. Despite their great size and bulkiness, buffalo have amazing mobility, speed, and agility, and are able to sprint at speeds of up to 30 mph.
FACT 1: The word buffalo, in everyday usage, could refer to any of three main types of buffalo, coming from three different continents: the African Buffalo or the Cape Buffalo, the Indian or Water Buffalo and the Bison or American buffalo.
FACT 2: The Cape Buffalo are the largest and most formidable of Africa’s wild bovid. It is the only bovine native to Africa. It thrives in grassland habitats of sub Saharan Africa, from the dry savannah to swamp. They never roam more than 20 km from a water body.
FACT 3: Herds of Cape Buffalo co-operatively defend themselves. They can put to flight or even kill lions when summoned by a distress call.
FACT 4: Water Buffalo are aptly named as they spend most of their time in water. They live in the tropical and sub-tropical forests of Asia. There are 74 breeds of the domestic Water Buffalo numbering about 165 million in South East Asia. They are known as the ‘tractor of the east’ as they are widely used for ploughing paddy fields. They are also kept as milk animals. Their milk is rich in butter fat.
FACT 5: There are only a few wild Water Buffalo left and these are fast disappearing due to over hunting, shrinking habitat and interbreeding with feral cattle. A wild water buffalo can weigh up to 1,200 kg. They have the longest horns among any cattle or bovid
FACT 5: Both the Cape Buffalo and the Water Buffalo diverged from yaks 3 million years ago.
FACT 6: The American Buffalo, the Bison (Bison bison) is believed to have crossed over the land bridge that connected Asia and North America. Over the centuries they spread south as far as Mexico and east to the Atlantic Coast. The largest herds were found in the plains and the parries.
FACT 7: The bison herds were so large that Lewis Clark wrote in 1806, ‘(they) darkened the whole plains’. It is difficult to say how many buffalo roamed the plains of America in great herds. The estimates range from 30 million to 75 million. Systematic reduction of buffalo herds began in the 1830’s with 25,000 animals being killed in a day. By 1883 the great herds of the north and the south had been destroyed. Only about 300 animals remained.
FACT 8: Conservation efforts were slow in coming but have been fairly successful. The buffalo population of North America stands at 200,000 today.
FACT 9: The buffalo is an integral part of Native American culture. The Native Americans depended on buffalo for meat and milk. They believed and many still believe that the animal has special spiritual and healing powers.
FACT 10: Buffalo is a very popular name for a town in the USA. There are sixteen towns named Buffalo. In New York State, Buffalo is not a town but a city. It is the most well-known Buffalo!