- Social structure - Activity
cycles - Territoriality and
are the heaviest species within the Antelope family (Bovidae)
with males achieving a body weight of up to 800kg and females
up to 750kg (Smithers 1983). Taylor (1985, p355) compared
asymptotic body weights for four different buffalo populations
in Africa and found that they varied little from 700kg for
males and 500kg for females. Coe, Cumming and Philipson (1976)
used 450kg as the mean individual weight for the average animal
in a buffalo population. Typical shoulder heights are 155cm
for adult males and 145cm for adult females. The weight of
a buffalo calf at birth is about 40kg and males achieve their
full adult weight after about 7 years and females after about
Apart from their horn shape, the bodily form of buffalo resembles
that of cattle. The front hooves are significantly larger
than the hind hooves presumably because of the additional
weight in the massive forequarters, head and neck. Adult male
buffalo are black and females, subadults and juveniles all
show a tinge of reddish-brown colouring.
Buffalo are a key animal in the international sport
hunting industry and are perhaps the most sought after
amongst the "Big Five" species. Buffalo bulls have a reputation
for being extremely dangerous, particularly when wounded.
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Buffalo tend to form large herds in the wet season when
food is abundant and separate
into small herds when food is scarce in the dry season.
Sinclair (1974a) found that buffalo in the Serengeti showed
no habitat preferences in the wet season - all habitats
are equally suitable when food is plentiful.
Taylor (1985) observed that when the large herds at Matusadona
dispersed inland in the wet season, bachelor male groups remained
on the lakeshore and were thus able to occupy the most favourable
habitats the year round. Females,
on the other hand, are forced to travel further within their
home range in search of food because of the nutritional burden
placed on them by nurturing calves and moving in large herds.
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Sinclair (1974c) found that the amount of time which buffalo
spent on feeding remained fairly constant throughout the year
and, during the wet season, there was no pattern of daily
In the dry season daily cycles of activity became more pronounced:
buffalo spent little time grazing in the hottest part of the
day and devoted longer periods to ruminating when food quality
Much of this behaviour demonstrates adaptations aimed at
reducing energy expenditure when food is limiting.
Buffalo are selective grazers in the wet season but this
behaviour creates difficulties for them in the dry season
when little is left of their preferred species.
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Territoriality and aggression
Buffalo appear to waste little energy in competing for territory.
Although Taylor (1985) found non-overlapping home ranges amongst
large buffalo herds, the numerous observations of long distance
buffalo movements suggest that territoriality is secondary
when it comes to securing bulk food resources. The best strategy
for buffalo may not be to compete for territory but to use
resources as fast as possible when they are abundant.
Instances of intra-specific aggression are observed amongst
buffalo males often resulting in animals being expelled from
herds. However, male mortality is no worse than female mortality
and Sinclair (1974b) concluded that social stress did not
appear to cause mortality
Since food shortages affected all age groups of both sexes
equally, mortality could not have been socially induced. Undernutrition
is a limiting factor for
Buffalo rather than any social factors.