For many visitors to the bush, the art of tracking and following an animal is both mystical and fascinating to experience. One of the oldest known art forms, tracking is as ancient as man itself yet today it is a diminishing aspect of indigenous culture which is being kept alive by the Tracker Academy. In this series of posts, sponsored by the Tracker Academy, we aim to help you understand how to identify and follow tracks when you are on your next safari. Of course, there is no substitute for experience and so we encourage you to come and visit us at Londolozi and spend time with our trackers who have over 120 years of experience combined…
Here are a couple of important points to remember when next you are out in the wilderness tracking a herd of buffalo:
- Buffalo tracks are very similar in appearance to that of a domestic cow
- Two large hooves are evident with two dew claws situated higher up the leg. The dew claws will show up in the track in deep mud or sand
- The bulls regularly move about in small groups or as a single individual. Large herd’s tracks are characterised by a large number of tracks, with youngsters and a lot of dung!
- The length of a front foot (excluding dew claws) is approximately 13 to 14cm
- Buffalo tracks can be confused with Eland – however the eland’s tracks are slightly more elongated. The eland’s tracks are straighter – not as curved on the outside as a buffalo. The eland generally shows a slightly bigger gap in between the hooves at the front of the track, although this does vary depending on the consistency of the soil. The length of the tracks of the two animals is very similar.
- The tracks’ sequence varies greatly from a full register (back foot landing on top of front foot) to no register at all. Generally, the buffalo will register when it is walking at a relaxed slow stride.
- Trackers will often hear the grunting sounds made by buffalo, which can be helpful in locating them whilst tracking. That said, lone bulls lying in a shady thicket in the heat of the day would remain completely silent. In this situation, trackers must gauge the age of the tracks, consider the time of the day and the related behaviour of the buffalo, the wind direction, move quietly and be extremely cautious.
Have you got your own experiences and stories of tracking buffalo or buffalo herds in Africa? If so, please share them in the comments section below as I am always interested to hear your own learnings and experiences.