One of the most abundant of
Africa’s large herbivores

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Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Global population of 900K estimated
  • There are 4 subspecies of African buffalo
  • Protected areas hold 75% of buffalo population

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Syncerus caffer


1,500 lb.


3.3 to 5.4 ft. at shoulder

Life span

20 years


Dense forest to open plains




11 to 2 months


Humans and lions


Where do buffalo live?

Both savanna buffalo and forest buffalo live close to water. In general, buffalo are found throughout the northern and southern savanna as well as the lowland rain forest.


Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, DRC, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa, Kazungula, Virunga, Zambezi, Cameroon View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a buffalo?

There is only one species of buffalo in Africa, but two distinct subspecies exist: the large savanna buffalo and the much smaller forest buffalo. The forest subspecies is only found in Central and West Africa.

Savanna buffalo are large, heavy, cow-like animals. They vary greatly not only in size, but in the shapes of their horns and their coloring. Adults are usually dark gray or black (or even look red or white if they have been wallowing in mud of that color), and the young are often reddish-brown. The smaller forest buffalo maintains the red color even as an adult, although in Western Uganda, many savanna buffalo are also red or pale orange instead of black. Adults lose hair as they age.

Both male and female buffalo have heavy, ridged horns that grow straight out from the head or curve downward and then up. The horns are formidable weapons against predators and are used for jostling for space within the herd; males use the horns in fights for dominance.


Behavior & Diet

Grass forms the bulk of the buffalo’s diet.

Food sources play more of an important role than predation in regulating buffalo numbers. Without fresh green feed, buffalo deteriorate rapidly.

Buffalo sometimes congregate by the thousands.

Buffalo can live in herds of a few hundred, but they have been known to congregate in thousands in the Serengeti during the rainy season. The females and their offspring make up the bulk of the herd. Males may spend much of their time in bachelor groups. These groups are of two types, those that contain males from 4 to 7 years of age and those that have males 12 years and older. The older bulls often prefer to be on their own.

Births typically occur during the rainy season.

Females have their first calves at age 4 or 5. They usually calve only once every two years, and most births occur in the rainy season when abundant grass improves the nutritional level for females when they are pregnant or nursing. The female and her offspring have an unusually intense and prolonged relationship. Calves are suckled for as long as a year and during this time, they are completely dependent on their mothers. Female offspring usually stay in the natal herd, but males leave when they are about 4 years old.

Buffalo’s senses are quite poor.

Their sight and hearing are both rather poor, but scent is well-developed in buffalo. Buffalo also seem to have a relatively difficult time regulating body temperature—the reason why they feed mostly at night. Although they are quiet for the most part, the animals do communicate. In mating seasons, they grunt and emit hoarse bellows, and a calf in danger will bellow mournfully, bringing herd members running at a gallop to defend it.


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Buffalo frequently come into conflict with humans.

Outside national parks in East Africa, buffalo are known to break fences, raid cultivated crops, and they may even spread bovine diseases to livestock.

Habitat fragmentation threatens the buffalo.

The buffalo’s habitat is threatened by fragmentation, which is caused when land is fenced off, bisected by a highway, such as the proposed Serengeti Highway (a plan opposed by African Wildlife Foundation), or divided by some other method.


Our solutions to conserving the buffalo:

  • Work with governments.

    AWF works with government entities to help plan and propose alternative solutions to habitat fragmentation. In the case of the Serengeti Highway, AWF provides its scientists as resources to assist in proper planning to ensure a balance between growth and modernization and wildlife conservation.

  • Engage communities.

    We work with communities to help meet their agricultural needs through proper planning and techniques for sustainable agricultural growth. By providing these resources, AWF is able to minimize land used for agriculture, thereby minimizing impact on local wildlife, while helping to maximize food security and income for people.


Will you show the buffalo your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on critical initiatives like providing agricultural training to communities and working with governments to prevent habitat fragmentation. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the buffalo does not become an endangered species. 

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