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The social behaviour of the African buffalo

13 June 2016


Breeding herds

The African savanna buffalo is a gregarious animal that forms breeding herds consisting of several thousand animals in which there is a well-defined social order. Breeding herds numbering up to 3000 animals are known from the Savuti region of Botswana. In addition, younger and older bulls that no longer breed form bachelor herds. Young bulls in bachelor herds will challenge and replace breeding bulls in the breeding herds from time to time. A breeding herd is a relatively stable unit, but large herds form and divide continually because herd size may be the product of the availability and quality of the food resources. However, it is not clear whether being a member of a large herd benefits an individual buffalo rather than the population as an entity.

In certain regions, such as the Serengeti Plains in East Africa, the buffalo herds migrate seasonally to areas with permanent water resources during the dry season and leave for other areas again with the onset of the wet season. Large herds break up into smaller units when resting, but they rejoin to form a single, large herd when they become active again.




Although there does not seem to be clearly defined subgroups within the larger population, there are distinct groups of calves that may associate with each other when they become adults. However, in the bulls this association stops when they reach puberty at an age of around three years. There does not seem to be a distinct... (Become a subscriber for more)



Du Toit, J G 2005. The African savanna buffalo. In J du P Bothma & N Van Rooyen (Eds), Intensive wildlife production in southern Africa. Pretoria: Van Schaik, pages 78 - 107.

Sinclair, A R E 1977. The African buffalo. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Skinner, J D & C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pages 621 - 625.

article by Prof J du P Bothma


See more buffalo articles:

A photo gallery of buffaloes
The African savanna buffalo, scientifically described by Prof J du P Bothma
Intensive production of African savanna buffaloes


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