Cape Buffalo - Built Tough
The Cape buffalo is not the largest, fiercest or fastest of the Big Five, but it is certainly the deadliest. Along with hippos and crocodiles, buffaloes are considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa, and many a hunter has been sent to meet their maker at the horns and hoofs of this large bovine.
This gruesome track record is partly due to their massive physical size and strength, but has more to do with their habit of bearing a grudge – some say forever. According to bush lore, a wounded buffalo will circle around and attack a hunter that has caused them harm, with cold-blooded efficiency.
An elephant may never forget, but a buffalo neither forgives nor forgets.
It's not all bad attitude though, captive-bred buffalos are known for remembering their previous handlers, after many years of separation, and greeting them with as much affection as can be expected from almost a ton of bushveld beef.
Standing at a 1.5 m at the shoulder, both male and female are armed with a set of horns which curve upwards from a heavy boss in the case of the males. With four times the strength of the average ox and a hide as thick as 2 inches in places, the buffalo is a formidable enemy and has few natural enemies.
Buffaloes are often preyed upon by lions; although they are faster over long distances, their slow acceleration is no match for the group ambush tactics of a pride of lions. Unlike other prey species, buffaloes will defend their kin from attack, as witnessed in the famous clip 'Battle at Kruger', and the animosity between lion and buffalo is well documented. They will attack and kill an undefended lion cub given half a chance, while lions are quick to attack lone buffaloes. Even a pride of lions is no match for a herd of buffalo, which can sometimes have in excess of 200 members.
Enormous herds such as these require massive amounts of food and water, and are usually found close to large rivers or other permanent water features. They are good swimmers and will cross wide rivers in search of grazing if need be, and the herds tend to split up into smaller groups during times of drought. Buffalo are also adept at converting long fields of grassland into short pastures – perfect for smaller species with pickier appetites.
Despite the bad press, buffalo are generally peaceful and non-confrontational if left to their own devices, regarding passers-by with little more than a blank stare or a derisive snort.