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The Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is one of the few bovids on the planet that has not been domesticated by man. The Cape buffalo are known for their unpredictable temperament and have been known to attack people when they are threatened or wounded.
Standing about 1.7 metres or more tall and 3.4 metres long, some male specimens can reach weights of 900 kilograms or more. They are some of the largest grazers on the savannah and there are few predators that dare to approach a fully grown buffalo, let alone hunt them. Their only real threat comes from lions that have been known to bring down a buffalo when they work together and then they usually target old or weak animals.
They move in herds of a thousand or more animals that are usually made up of related female animals. The main herd is often followed by small sub-herds of bachelors that continuously fight for dominance and mating rights with the main herd. The herd protects their own, especially calves, and buffalo often go back if one of their number is captured or in danger. They use mob behaviour, trampling the offending threat into the dust.
The Cape buffalo is known for its distinctive horns that make it a prize trophy for many a big game hunter. Its status as one of the Big Five is attributed to their tenacity and cantankerous personality when wounded. These buffalo often charge and attack hunters when wounded, sometimes bringing the entire herd along with them.
They can live in a wide variety of environments and are found in the non-desert areas of Africa stretching from as far north as Egypt all the way down the eastern coast of Africa to South Africa. They prefer swamps, floodplains, grasslands or forests, with a particular liking for areas of dense cover.t
The Cape buffalo is not considered to be under threat, however there are initiatives to ensure the survival of the species. While herds numbering in the thousands can be found all over Africa, notably in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, over hunting could easily spell disaster for the buffalo populations. While they are durable and tough animals, their livelihood can be affected by droughts and other environmental disasters.
As one of the Big Five, the Cape buffalo stands apart from the other animals of Africa. Its distinctive horns and ornery disposition is known to all and, for the time being, it remains the lord of its domain.
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