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Buffalo – Part of the Bovidae Family

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Buffalo is not just a type of sauce you put on your chicken wings. A Buffalo is a wild animal that belongs to the Bovidae family. This family consists of cloven-hoofed vertebrates. The American buffalo (bison), the water buffalo and the African buffalo all belong to this family. Each buffalo type varies based on size, weight, length, habitat and location.

Feral Buffaloes

The bison is the ugly duckling of buffalos. The best way to view a bison is to view it as a distant cousin to the buffalo family. They look similar to a buffalo but do not have all the same qualities.

The American bison weighs approximately 400 to 1,270 kilograms, is about 2 metres in height and 3.5 metres in length. The main differences between the bison and the other buffalo types is the hump between their shoulders and their significantly larger head.

This difference is beneficial to the bison as it allows them to use their head and shoulders as a snowplough during winter.

American Bison

The American bison can be found in North American. They primarily to live in great plains, this being a wide span of grasslands. This is useful as the bison’s diet is primarily, but not limited to grass.

The American bison is an herbivore meaning they feed on plants. Bison’s will migrate to meet the needs of their diets. Their diet shifts from season to season, seeing the most protein consumed in the spring.

They eat substances such as cottonwoods and willows not only in the winter but also in the summer.

Like the human species, the males like to leave the females together and go off with their other male friends. The bison species are typically divided into a male herd and a female herd.

The males leave the females at two or three years of age and join the male herd. It is only during the reproduction period that the males will return to the female herd.

Due to their size and the fact that they travel in herds, bison’s have few predators. One of the most significant predators for them are humans. The 19th and 20th century saw the bison close to extinction due to excessive hunting.

However, since then the bison has been removed from the list of endangered species in American and has instead been places on a list of threatened species. This is a step in the right direction as it allows the species one step further away from extinction.

The African buffalo also known as the Cape buffalo can be found in southern and east Africa. The African buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa due to their strong, protruding horns. This type of buffalo is a threat to any human that may cross their path.

Syncerus Caffer African Buffalo Skull Mnhn

There are two types of African buffalo. The Savannah-type and they forest-type. Both types range in size from 1.7 to 3.4 metres in length and 1.0 to 1.7 metres in height. However, there is a significant difference in the weight of both types.

The savannah-type weighs approximately 500 to 1,000 kilograms, whether the forest-type ways approximately 250 to 450 kilograms. That means that the forest-type is nearly half the size as the savannah-type. Other than their size another way to distinguish between the to types is based on their colour.

The savannah-type has a black or brown coat compared to the forest-type that has reddish-brown coat.

The herds of African buffalos consist of primarily females and their young with a few older males. The young males tend to stay away from the older males in the herd as the older males tend to assert dominance.

Like the American buffalo the males tend to flock into a male herd and only return during the wet season as this is when they mate and reproduce. Many of the order males do not return to their original herd as they can no longer compete with the younger and stronger male calves.

African Buffalo

Finally, the water buffalo also known as the domestic water buffalo or the Asian water buffalo although originated from the Indian subcontinent, southern Asia and China, the species can now be found in places such as Europe, Australia, North America, South America and Africa.

Water Buffalo

Unlike the other forms of buffalo, the water buffalo is used by humans for domestic purposes. For example, the water buffalo can till rice fields. Another important factor is that the milk that these animals produce is richer in proteins and fats compared to any other cattle.

Like the African buffalo, the water buffalo has two types: the river buffalo and the swap buffalo. The best distinguishment can be made based on the colouring and size of each type.

The river buffalo is a dark slate colour compared to the swap buffalo which is grey when born and they transform into a slate blue colour. The river buffalo has bigger limbs however, the swap buffalo are stockier, they have shorter bodies but bigger bellies.

Water buffalos are herbivores just like the other types of buffalo. However, as their habitat is primarily in water, the plants that they eat are water plants. For example, they eat reeds and Cyperaceae.

Water buffalos have been domesticated in many places such as China and the Indian subcontinent. This may be due to the use of water buffalo milk in many products such as butter and soft and hard cheeses.

Water buffalo meat also generates a lot of revenue for India as it is exported from India to many other places.

If you would like to know more about buffalos, here are some useful resources:

About Buffalos

What are the different types of buffalo?
American Buffalo (bison), water buffalo and the African buffalo

What do buffalos eat?
Buffalos are herbivores meaning that they eat plants

What is a group of buffalos called?
A herd

How do they protect themselves against predators?
Buffalos use their size to their advantage as well as their strong and protruding horns to help them fend for themselves

What are baby buffalos called?
Calves

Are buffalos wild?
Yes, most types of buffalo are wild. However, there has been many cases of water buffalos being domesticated for human gain.

Where do buffalos live?
The habitat of a buffalo depends on the type of buffalo in question. However, buffalos need to locate themselves somewhere with easy access to plants so they don’t starve. This means that they tend to find habitat in grasslands or water with a high population of water plants.

See worksheet of Buffalo Differences Worksheet
See Worksheet of Draw the Buffalo Worksheet