African buffalo…. Black Death.

African buffalo, or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

The Buffalo is by far my favourite animal. Why? Their sheer strength, tenacity and fear of nothing appeals to me. They have the “Look”, that which makes you think this is as docile as a dairy cow. But is it? No way, this Buffalo is known for killing humans, its ability when wounded by a hunter, to circle back and attack, and its apparent fear of nothing. (TO SEE A YOUTUBE CLIP SHOWING THIS, CLICK HERE, QUITE FUNNY ACTUALLY)

Known within Africa as one of the “big five”, “The Black Death” or “widow maker”, the African buffalo is widely regarded as a very dangerous animal, as it gores and kills over 200 people every year. Buffaloes are sometimes reported to kill more people in Africa than any other animal, although the same claim is also made of hippos and crocodiles. (Wikipedia)

The Cape buffalo is susceptible to many diseases, including bovine tuberculosis, corridor disease, and foot and mouth disease. As with many diseases, these problems will remain dormant within a population as long as the health of the animals is good. Some wardens and game managers have managed to protect and breed “disease-free” herds which become very valuable because they can be transported. Most well-known are Lindsay Hunt’s efforts to source uninfected animals from the Kruger National Park. A beautiful video to watch of Lindsay Hunts efforts are shown in a youtube clip, (CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT)

There is nothing more majestic than the Bull Buffalo, and this one I encountered yesterday was a treat.. they say when you can see the red in his eyes, it’s too late… this guy never showed the red of his eye…



A characteristic feature of them is the adult bull’s horns have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as a “boss’, which can not always be penetrated even by a rifle bullet.



Its shoulder height can reach 1.7 m (5.6 ft.) and its head-and-body length 3.4 m (11 ft.). Compared with other large bovid, it has a long but stocky body (the body length can exceed the Wild water buffalo, which is rather heavier and taller) and short but thickset legs, resulting in a relatively short standing height. The tail can range from 70 to 110 cm (28 to 43 in) long. Savannah-type buffaloes weigh 500 to 900 kg (1,100 to 2,000 lb.), with males normally larger than females, reaching the upper weight range.




Adult bulls will spar in play, dominance interactions or actual fights. A bull will approach another, lowing, with his horns down and wait for the other bull to do the same thing. When sparring, the bulls twist their horns from side to side. These battles are seldom of danger to the other but some look extremely vicious. (CLICK HERE TO SEE A BATTLE BETWEEN BULLS CAPTURED ON VIDEO). The skin in the neck area can reach a thickness of 50mm (2 inches).



This is a real beauty…


62 thoughts on “African buffalo…. Black Death.

  1. I remember being told by one of the last Great White Hunters that the buffalo was the animal he was most scared of.
    As killers, the stats seem to have proven the hippo has it, though.

    • Yes now that the Buffs are contained and few are shot per year the hippo is the biggest killer, but then he wanders still amid the general public…. My nephew is a white hunter in Zim, Zambia and Botswana… he will face anything he says .. but a charging Buff is his worse nightmare…

    • Thanks Fergie… have got to know these animals very well in my life time and can assure you when they show certain signs I give them a wide berth…

  2. Those horns are really something fierce! They’re quite beautiful, though, in the way they create almost a helmet that fits over the front of the head. The Clash of the Titans is quite spectacular, isn’t it? Another magnificent animal!

    • It is a crash helmet we should all have… it has been known to totally deflect bullets that a few inches lower would easily kill the animal… there are some amazing videos out there of the tenacity of the buffalo, have you seen the video titled “Battle in Kruger” where a young buffalo is captured by lion, ends up in a tug of war between the lion and then a crocodile, only to be rescued and taken back into the herd by the buffalo?? It is a magnificent video to watch… and I can assure you the young returns happily to its mother… here’s a link…

  3. I once had the opportunity to see some water buffalo up close they are huge and I wouldn’t want to have a face off with one. Your photos are awesome and a couple have an adorable look about their face. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Outstanding images, my friend. Please note: if you plan to scratch his back, would you mind doing it with one of those telescoping handled back scratchers? We’d like you to stay around for a while 🙂

    • Thank you… I normally go out on a search for these… when the bulls get old and split from the herd they are referred to as Dugga boys… you normally get 3 bulls together, covered in mud i.e. Dugga that they love to roll in… this threesome is the most formidable team one can find… no Lion attempt to tackle this team… power beyond description…

  5. Oh my – I can see why you have utmost respect for this Buffalo bd… His whole presence seems to say – “don’t mess around with me!!” 🙂 Beautiful animal though… but sounds pretty dangerous to be so close! Fantastic captures with your magic lens again too!! x Love to you, RL

    • Thank you Robyn… I feel quite safe in the vehicle.. and have a fair amount of experience in their attitude… but I won’t take chances with this guy.. a hook from those horns and your gone

    • They do look so casual… yet make the wrong move and you’ve got trouble… in the video of the close encounter, did you notice the guide made no quick movements… the bull might just have joined him in the vehicle..

    • Thanks Brian… Lindsey Hunts video is one that is a real eye opener.. I always stop beside the road when passing his place just to get a glimpse of these Buffs… they don’t look that tame from my vantage point…
      as fro the close encounter… I’ve had one approach my car with the intention of a rub… needless to say reversing was a necessity…

  6. Superb photos, bulldog. Thanks for the interesting info too. I’ve never seen the horns up close, thankfully, but you’ve shown them perfectly, so I can view them in safety. 🙂

    • Thanks AD… it is the most docile looking animal.. but it can also reach speeds of 50 odd Km/Hr.. so you can be assured when taking the close ups the foot is on the accelerator ready to fly if need be…

  7. When we saw them in Botswana I was fascinated with them. Just one look and you can sense their brute strength. And they are so beautiful in their own way.

  8. Stunning animals indeed bulldog and once again you’ve captured their beauty in nature so well again. Great shots my friend! *big hugs*

  9. Looks pretty calm, but i wouldn’t want one chasing me that’s for sure!
    A guy I knew way back when was involved in a project where they tried to breed “disease-free” buffaloes. Their theory was that most of the diseases where transmitted at birth and they tried to have test tube buffuloes carry full term in normal cow surrogates. We lost touch, but at last conversation they couldn’t get it to work (probably a good thing since it’s a bit odd to begin with). The cow had some enzymes that would attack the test tube buffulo before reaching full term.

    It sounded fascinating though – I wonder if they carried on much with that and had any success later on.

    • Heard of that project but I’m led to believe it failed… however Hunt’s project is having a lot of success… he’s a brave man though…

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