An African buffalo walking

African buffalo

African buffalos are strong and imposing animals of the African savanna. Although, today few populations exist outside the confines of national parks. Females form protective herds of 1,000 individuals whilst males are mostly solitary. These formidable grazers are the only wild cattle species, and bonds between females are strong. If one individual is under attack from a predator, the herd will rush to the victim's defence, and a herd is easily capable of driving away an entire pride of lions.

Scientific name: Syncerus caffer

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Buffalo,
  • Cape buffalo,
  • Forest buffalo,
  • Savanna buffalo

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Map showing the distribution of the African buffalo taxa

Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

The African buffalo can be found in a number of locations including: Africa. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the African buffalo distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

Least Concern

  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern

Population trend: Decreasing

Year assessed: 2008

Classified by: IUCN 3.1

The African buffalo up close

At first sight, a herd of African buffalos look like a group of large cows, but unlike cows they have a fearsome reputation for aggression and strength. They are not to be confused with the bison of North America and Europe, which are also sometimes called 'buffalos'. Recent research has also shown that buffalos display some fascinating behaviour.


Regular feeding on fresh greens is very important to buffalos and they quickly begin to suffer from malnutrition when food is scarce. Grass makes up a large part of their diet, but they also browse on bushes and trees. Being large animals they can easily overheat, so they feed mostly during the cool night, and rest during the heat of the day.


African buffalos can be found in a surprising variety of places. As well as living on the African savannah, they are found in tropical forests near the equator. Forest buffalos are sometimes classified as a smaller, darker subspecies than those living on the savannah, which are known as Cape buffalos.

Social behaviour

Female buffalos form large herds on the savannah, up to 1,000 strong, whilst males generally live on their own or in small groups. Herds of females are immensely protective of each other and their calves, allowing even three-legged or blind members to survive.

Interesting feature

Herds of female African buffalos appear to have a unique way of deciding in which direction to move: they vote on it! When the herd is ready to move on after resting, individuals start to stand up and face the direction in which they wish to move.

Eventually, when enough members have 'voted', the dominant female leads the herd off in the direction that most of the individuals have faced.

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