WATER BUFFALO – Bubalus bubalis


Water buffalo facts: Water buffalo measure 98.4 to 118.1 inches (250 to 300 centimeters) long and stand 59 to 74.4 inches (150 to 189 centimeters) at the shoulder. They weigh between 1,543 and 2,645 pounds (700 to 1,200 kilograms), with females weighing about 20 percent less than males. They are the largest bovids, with disproportionately big feet and wide hooves. Fur is dark gray to black in wild species. Tail ends in a bushy ball of black hair. Males have crescent-shaped pointed horns that measure around 47.2 inches (120 centimeters) long. Females also have horns.

Geographic range: Found in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. A small population lives in a wildlife reserve in Thailand.

Water buffalo habitat: Water buffalo live in tropical and subtropical forests as well as grasslands. They live near water, from swamps to woodlands and plains. They not only drink the water, but spend much of the day partially submerged so that they remain cool and ward off insects.

What does water buffalo eat: This bovid eats grasses, herbs, aquatic plants, and other vegetation.

Behavior and reproduction: Water buffalo form herds of females and offspring of up to thirty individuals. Old males are solitary. After a 300- to 340-day pregnancy, females give birth to one calf, sometimes to twins. Calves nurse for six to nine months. Female calves sometimes remain with the mother for life. Males leave around the age of three years. Females are ready to mate around eighteen months of age. This bovid will interbreed with domesticated cattle.

Water buffalo and people: Water buffalo were first domesticated in China more than seven thousand years ago. They provide meat, hides, horns, milk, and butter fat. For native cultures, they also provide an inexpensive method of power for plowing fields and transporting people.

Conservation status: Listed as Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction, by the IUCN. Domesticated populations are abundant, but there are fewer than four thousand wild water buffalo in the world. Existing populations are small and separated by a great distance from each other, which limits reproduction.