Buffalo (Syncerus caffer – Sparrman, 1779) bulls tend to wander in small groups of up to six animals. Old bulls are often solitary. Groups of old bulls are sometimes referred to as “dagga boys”. The term “dagga” is a black slang word for “mud”.
The association between buffalo and mud is based on their being very partial to wallowing in mud. This serves a number of functions. Firstly it cools the animals down and assists in the control of body temperature – known as thermoregulation. Secondly as the mud dries and becomes hard and encrusted it traps ectoparasites.
Buffalo enjoy rubbing themselves on convenient objects and when the hardened mud is rubbed off, the entombed ectoparasite is removed at the same time. There is a dominance heirarchy in bull herds that is established on the basis of age, strength and fighting ability. Disputes between bulls are usually settled after the first head to head charge. When two bulls charging at 25 km/h collide head on, the impact is equivalent to a car hitting a wall at 50km/h! Older bulls occasionally return to cow herds to mate, beating off younger rivals by virtue of their greater size and long combat experience.Top ranking bulls mate nearest the time of a cows ovulation when the chances of conception are greatest. Buffalo bulls will help defend one another in times of danger. Lone bulls are often cantankerous and pose the greatest danger for humans.
Male female horn structure
Although both sexes carry horns the configuration differs in buffalo. Old bulls have massive horns with a rugged surface for the basal third, becoming progressively smoother towards the tips. In bulls the horns press close together at their origin (referred to as the “boss”), spreading outwards and curving downwards to well below the base of the skull then curve upwards and inwards. In cows the horns are less massive, narrower across the base, not as wide across the outermost curve and have shallower ridges.
Buffalo have good eyesight and smell. When alerted, buffalo will immediately stop feeding or whatever they were busy, with turn to face what has drawn their attention, adopt a head erect posture with the nose lifted high to test the wind. The ears are turned towards the source of suspicion and the buffalo stares intently. This behaviour might be accompanied by foot stamping, head tossing, and snorting. Curious buffalo might even approach their source of interest. If feeling threatened horns will form a defensive perimeter bulls on the outside, cows and calves inside the “lager”.