The African buffalo is a powerful, strong, and very formidable animal. In Africa, buffalo attacks kill a lot of people every year. These ungulates are inferior in power and danger only to the huge Nile crocodiles and hippos. It is worth noting that, along with power and danger, he is quite vulnerable. It is the largest representative of all existing ungulates. African black buffalo are also called kaffir buffalo.
Origin and description
The African buffalo is a representative of chordates artiodactyl mammals. Belongs to the family of bovids, separated into a separate subfamily and genus. The forerunner of the modern African buffalo is a hoofed bovid animal resembling wildebeest.
The animal existed on the territory of modern Asia already 15 million years ago. From him came the line of bovids Simatheriuma. Approximately 5 million years ago, an ancient ungulate of the genus Ugandax appeared. In the initial period of the Pleistocene, another ancient genus Syncerus descended from it. It was he who gave rise to the modern African buffalo.
With the advent of the first ancient buffaloes on the territory of modern Africa, there were more than 90 species of these majestic animals. Their habitat was huge. They lived throughout the African continent. They were also found on the territory of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia.
Subsequently, they were exterminated by humans, and in the process of development of the territory they were ousted from all over the Sahara, and remained in small quantities only in the southern regions. It is conditionally possible to divide them into two subspecies: savannah and forest. The first is distinguished by the presence of 52 chromosomes, the second has 54 chromosomes.
The most powerful and largest individuals live in the eastern and southern regions of the African continent. Smaller individuals live in the northern regions. In the central region, the smallest species, the so-called pygmy buffalo, is found. In the Middle Ages, there was another subspecies in Ethiopia – the mountain buffalo. At the moment, it is considered completely extinct.
Appearance and features
Appearance of an African buffalo impresses with its power and power. The height of this animal reaches 1.8-1.9 meters. The body length is 2.6 – 3.5 meters. Sexual dimorphism is pronounced, females are smaller and much lighter than males.
How much does an African buffalo weigh?
The body weight of one adult individual reaches 1000 kilograms, and even more. It is noteworthy that these ungulates increase body mass throughout their lives.
The older the buffalo, the more it weighs. Animals have long, thin tails. Its length is almost a third of the length of the body and is equal to 75-100 cm. The body of representatives of the bovid family is strong, very powerful. The limbs are small but very strong. This is necessary to withstand the huge body weight of the animal. The front part of the body is larger and more massive than the back, therefore the front limbs are visually thicker than the hind ones.
Video: African buffalo
The head is slightly lowered relative to the line of the spine, visually it seems low-set. It has an elongated, square shape. Of particular note are the horns. In females, they are not as large as in males. In males, they reach more than one and a half meters in length. They are not straight, but curved. In the forehead area, the horns grow together and form a very thick and strong shield. Small but wide ears are located on the head, which are always lowered due to massive horns.
A thick horn shield in the area of lyub serves as reliable protection and is able to withstand even a gunshot.
African buffaloes have very large, black eyes that are close to the forehead. Tears almost always flow from the eyes, which attracts a large number of insects. This serves as an additional irritant to already aggressive animals. The hairline of the animal is distinguished by its density and dark, almost black color. The skin of the animal is rough, thick, designed for reliable protection against external mechanical damage.
In females, the coat color is much lighter, has a dark brown or reddish color. The thickness of the skin of an adult exceeds 2 centimeters! On the body of adult animals, whose age exceeds 10 years, spots appear on which hair falls out as they age. Ungulates have a highly developed sense of smell and hearing, but poor eyesight.
Where does the African buffalo live?
Black buffalo live exclusively on the African continent. As regions for habitation, a territory rich in water sources, as well as pastures, on which dense green vegetation is present in large numbers, is chosen. They live mainly in forests, savannahs, or in the mountains. In some cases, they are able to climb mountains over 2,500 meters high.
Just two centuries ago, African buffaloes inhabited a vast territory that included the whole of Africa, and accounted for almost 40% of all ungulates existing in this territory. To date, the population of ungulates has declined sharply and their habitat has decreased.
Geographical regions of habitat:
- South Africa;
As a habitat, choose an area that is significantly removed from the places of human settlement. They often prefer to settle in dense forests, which are distinguished by a large number of shrubs and impenetrable thickets. Animals perceive humans as a source of danger.
The main criterion for the area they choose as their habitat is the presence of water bodies. Representatives of the bovid family prefer to settle away not only from humans, but also from other representatives of flora and fauna.
It is unusual for them to share territory with any other animals. The only exception are birds, which are called buffaloes. They save animals from ticks and other blood-sucking insects. Birds practically live on the backs of these huge, formidable ungulates.
During a period of intense heat and drought, animals tend to leave their usual habitat and overcome vast territories in search of food. Solitary animals living outside the herd are located in the same territory and almost never leave it.
What does the African buffalo eat?
Representatives of the bovid family are herbivores. The main source of food are various types of vegetation. African bulls are considered quite finicky animals in terms of nutrition. They prefer certain types of plants. Even if there are a huge number of green, fresh and succulent plants around, they will look for the food they love.
Per day, each adult eats an amount of plant food equal to at least 1.5-3% of its own weight body. If the daily amount of food is less, there is a rapid decrease in body weight and weakening of the animal.
The main source of nutrition is green, succulent varieties of plants that grow near water bodies. Buffaloes have some peculiarity in the structure of the stomach. It consists of four chambers. As food arrives, the first chamber is filled first. As a rule, food gets there that is practically not chewed. Then she burps and carefully, for a long time, is chewed to fill the remaining chambers of the stomach.
Black buffaloes eat mainly at night. During the day, they hide in the shade of forests, wallow in mud puddles. They can only go out to water. One adult consumes at least 35-45 liters of liquid per day. Sometimes, with a lack of green vegetation, dry thickets of shrubs can serve as a food source. However, animals use this type of vegetation very reluctantly.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
African buffaloes are considered herd animals. They tend to form strong, cohesive groups. The size of the group depends on the area where the animals live. On the territory of open savannahs, the average number of herds is 20-30 heads, and when living in a forest, no more than ten. With the onset of intense heat and drought, smaller herds are combined into one large group. Such groups number up to three hundred animals.
There are three types of animal groups:
- In the herd, males, females, young calves.
- Older males over 13 years old
- Young males aged 4-5 years.
Each individual performs its assigned role. Experienced, adult males scatter around the perimeter and guard the occupied territory. If nothing threatens the animals and there is no danger, they can disperse over a long distance. If the bulls suspect or sense danger, they form a tight ring with females and young calves in the center. When attacked by predators, all adult males fiercely protect the weaker members of the group.
In anger, bulls are very scary. Huge horns are used as self-defense and when attacking. Having wounded their prey, they finish it off with their hooves, while trampling it for several hours, until there is practically nothing left of it. Black bulls can reach high speed – up to 60 km/h, escaping from the chase, or vice versa, chasing someone. Lonely elderly males fight off the pack and lead a solitary lifestyle. They are especially dangerous. Young animals can also fight off the herds, and create their own herd.
Black buffaloes are inherently nocturnal. At night, they emerge from dense thickets and graze until morning. During the day they hide from the scorching sun in the forest thickets, take mud baths or just sleep. Animals leave the forest only for watering. The herd always chooses as a habitat a territory that is located near a reservoir. It is unusual for him to go further from the reservoir than three kilometers.
African buffaloes are excellent swimmers. They easily swim across a pond when moving long distances in search of food, although they do not like to go deep into the water. The territory occupied by one group of herbivores does not exceed 250 square kilometers. When living in natural conditions, the African buffalo gives a sharp voice. Individuals of the same herd communicate with each other through head and tail movements.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The mating season for African buffaloes begins with the onset of the month of March and lasts until the end of spring. For the leadership position in the group, as well as the right to mate with the female they like, males often fight. Even though fights are quite scary, they rarely end in death. During this period, bulls tend to roar loudly, throwing their heads up, and dig the ground with their hooves. The strongest males get the right to enter into marriage. It often happens that one male enters into marriage with several females at once.
After mating, after 10-11 months, calves are born. Females give birth to no more than one calf. Before giving birth, they leave the herd and look for a quiet, secluded place.
When the baby is born, the mother carefully licks it. The weight of the newborn is 45-70 kilograms. 40-60 minutes after birth, the calves are already following their mother back to the herd. African buffalo cubs tend to grow quickly, develop and gain body weight. During the first month of life, they drink at least five liters of mother's milk daily. With the beginning of the second month of life, they begin to try plant foods. Mother's milk is needed until the age of six or seven months.
Cubs are next to their mother until they reach the age of three or four. Then the mother ceases to care and patronize them. Males leave the herd in which they were born in order to form their own, and females remain forever existing within it. The average life expectancy of a black buffalo is 17-20 years. In captivity, life expectancy increases to 25-30 years, and reproductive function is preserved.
Natural enemies of the African buffalo
African buffaloes are incredibly strong and powerful animals. In this regard, they have very few enemies in their natural habitat. Representatives of the family of bovid ungulates are capable of very bravely rushing to the rescue of the wounded, sick, weakened members of the group.
The enemies of the buffalo:
- spotted hyena;
Helminths and blood-sucking insects can easily be attributed to natural enemies. They tend to parasitize on the body of animals, causing inflammatory processes. Buffaloes are saved from such parasites by birds that settle on the backs of huge animals and feed on these insects. Another way to get rid of parasites is to swim in mud puddles. Subsequently, the dirt dries, rolls and falls off. Together with it, all parasites and their larvae also leave the body of the animal.
Man and his activities are considered another enemy of the majestic African buffalo. Now buffalo hunting is less common, but earlier poachers exterminated these bulls in large numbers for meat, horns and skins.
Population and species status
The African buffalo is not a rare species, or an animal on the verge of extinction. In this regard, it is not listed in the Red Book. According to some reports, today there are about a million heads of this animal in the world. In some regions of the African continent, licensed hunting for buffalo is even allowed.
Most of the buffalo exist within the reserves and national parks that are protected, for example, in Tanzania, in the Kruger National Park in South Africa , in Zambia, Luangwa Valley Conservation Areas.
The habitat of black African buffalo outside of national parks and conservation areas is complicated by human activities and the development of a large amount of land. Representatives of the bovid family do not tolerate domesticated, agricultural land and are unable to adapt to the changing conditions of the surrounding space.
The African buffalo is rightfully considered the full-fledged king of the African continent. These ferocious, incredibly strong and powerful animals are afraid of even the brave and brave king of animals – the lion. The power and majesty of this beast is truly amazing. However, it is becoming more and more difficult for him to survive in the natural conditions of the wild.