The Water Buffalo or Asian buffalo is often called the largest member of the Bovini tribe. That tribe includes yak, bison, African buffalo and species of wild cattle. They stand 5-6 feet tall at the shoulder and have gray-black coats. Males carry enormous horns close to 5 feet long with deep ridges on their surfaces. Females are smaller with horns that are smaller too. Water buffalo spend a lot of the day in muddy waters in Asia and subtropical forests. Their hoofed feet prevent them from sinking into the mud and allow them to move around in the swamps. The swamps provide good cover and rich aquatic plants to forage on and water buffalo prefer to feed on grass and herbs.
The females usually produce calves every other year. Young bulls remain with the herd for three years then they go on to form small male only herds. Water buffalo have been domesticated for over 5,000 years. They have helped with humanities survival with their meat, horns, hides, milk, butterfat and ploughing and transporting abilities. Wild buffalo are endangered and live in small numbers in protected areas stretching across India, Nepal and Bhutan and Thailand. The Latin name for them Bison bison and they are an American icon. In Europe they is a closely related species called the Bison bonasus. This species called the winet are endangered and confined to zoos.
There is a buffalo in Africa that is not only a different species but a separate genus called Syncerus Caffer. In the South there is a species called the Cape buffalo. The African buffalo has upturned horns which makes them very dangerous to humans. These buffalo can reach the speed of a horse at around 30mph! In Asia there is the water buffalo-bubalus bubalis. These are docile buffalo and can be farmed and eaten for their meat. Their milk and hide can also be used. Buffalo are important to Native American tribes. Bison is a curious word in that the plural is the same as the singular. Most dictionaries accept Buffalos or Buffalo as the plural! The old American 5 cent piece is called the “Buffalo Nickel.”
The locals in Hampshire, UK have been told not to approach six missing water buffalo because they can spray dung across large distances! They have been increasingly used in the UK for specialty cheeses, milk and yogurts.