Big, bold buffalo

August 18, 2017

 

Dark, broody, mysterious – all very apt words to describe the buffalo. And not to forget dangerous, as it is the member of the Big Five most feared by field guides and game rangers when on foot.

The true ancestry of the African or Cape buffalo remains uncertain. Despite popular belief it also has no relation whatsoever to the water buffalo of Asia and is not even an ancestor to domestic cattle.

It is not only its demeanour that gives the buffalo a fierce reputation, the actual physical characteristics of its horn adds to the bombastic appearance. The horns have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield across the top of the head referred to as a “boss”. In some cases the distance between the ends of the horns in a bull can be over a metre long with the ones of females about 20% smaller.

Buffalo congregate in big herds, reaching into the hundreds and sometimes even in the thousands. It is a sight to behold when these bovines start stomping their stocky legs and move on masse. One can marvel for hours at a watering hole when these black beasts stream down to quench their thirst.

Then there are the dagga boys, the name for a couple of lonely old buffalo bulls that hang together. Dagga is another word for mud and refers to the clay that sometimes coat their skins. These older bulls have often been kicked out of the herd because of old age or poor health.

And some unusual facts about buffalo that may not be so well known: They are good  swimmers; they have smooth tongues and they have exceptional memories.

 

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