From the early 1900’s the African Buffalo has been regarded as one of the most dangerous animals on the beautiful African continent. An African Buffalo has strength to burn and even the ‘King of the Jungle’ (lions) finds it tremendously tough to hunt these massive beasts. Buffalo are gregarious herbivores, moving over the grassy landscapes of Londolozi, picking off the greenest possible pastures to sustain their colossal bodies.
There are however many questions that I am often asked about buffalo – today I am going to share three of the most commonly asked questions about this impressive member of the Big Five.
Three commonly asked questions about the African Buffalo:
Why are buffalo bulls often seen on their own away from the larger herd?
The two main reasons are, wallowing in mud and a constant supply of soft green grass. Buffalo in a herd are continually moving around. These single or small herds of bulls are usually a little older and the hair on their body starts to deteriorate with age. In order to protect themselves against the sun and parasites that might infest the areas without hair they will roll around in pools of mud. The mud serves as a barrier against the sun and parasites. Soft green grass is usually found in areas with a constant supply of water and these buffalo will move and live in these areas owing to the fact that with age their teeth starts wearing down.
Why are buffalo regarded as one the most dangerous animals in Africa, isn’t a lion more dangerous?
When buffalo move away from the herd and live their solitary lives or amalgamate with other buffalo bulls, they leave the protection of the rest of the herd. By doing this they make themselves susceptible to predation. Therefore they tend to be more on their toes, realising that they might have to fight for their life at any given moment. On a recent morning drive we found the Tsalala pride in the Manyelethi River in the Northern Part of the Reserve. One lone buffalo bull moved into the area and was immediately spotted by the almost comatose lions. They gave the buffalo a quick glance and swiftly made their way to their quarry! The buffalo, knowing that he was in a battle of life or death, dropped his head to expose his prodigious horns. The pride soon realised that the buffalo wasn’t going down without a fight! He battled with the pride in a to and fro standoff for about 20 minutes until the lions decided that they wouldn’t risk a limb or injury to pursue this immense creature.
Will other buffalo always protect one another as we saw in the video ‘The battle at Kruger’?
In a herd of buffalo, most of the time yes, but in the case of a small herd, not necessarily! I have been lucky enough to see quite a few attempted hunts on buffalo that went from an almost certain victory for the predators to a resounding loss in a couple of minutes. We have witnessed a pack of 27 wild dogs single out a buffalo cow and as only a wild dog can do, strategically bite them into submission. The cow was on the ground, when all of a sudden the rest of the 400 strong herd came to its rescue. They chased the wild dogs away and stayed with the fallen cow. She however lost too much blood in this battle and eventually the herd left. I have however also seen how a pride of lions hunted and killed a buffalo in a small herd of three. They stalked the buffalo, without giving away their presence… They picked a target, got up and chased it down and overpowered the buffalo! The other two buffalo stood at a safe distance and watched the proceedings. After the incident they went about their normal lives as if nothing happened.
Nothing in nature is set in stone, everything varies! And that is what makes it so exciting to go on a game drive; you just never know what might happen around the next corner. When I think of buffalo, I think about what my tracker always says… “A lone buffalo bull is the most dangerous animal in Africa.” I tend to agree with this statement. They have unbelievable power, courage to burn and a frighteningly bad attitude! Any animal that can fight a lion without backing down should be admired. I will be the first to admit that when I find a buffalo walking along the scenic Sand River that flows through Londolozi, I will look at him and he will look at me and I will then move out of his natural environment and give him what he deserves: Respect.
Written by: Werner Breedt, Londolozi Game Ranger