The wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) is a large land mammal found primarily in southern Asia. Recognizable due to the backswept horns possessed by both males and females, water buffalo are the second largest wild cattle in existence. Though closely related to their domesticated cousins (Bubalus bubalis), wild water buffalo are considerably more scarce, with a remaining population of less than 4000; compared with over 150 million of the smaller domesticated variety.
As its name suggests, the water buffalo prefers to spend its time in muddy lakes and ponds keeping cool in the tropical climate in which it lives and feeding on the various aquatic plants that are available. The animal’s wide hooves allow it to walk on very soft surfaces without sinking; no small feat when you consider that the wild water buffalo can weigh up to 2,600lbs. When not wallowing in marshes the water buffalo sticks to open areas where it can feed on grass and herbs, all while keeping a wary eye out for predators such as tigers and leopards.
The domestic water buffalo rarely has so much time for relaxing. Often referred to as the “living tractor of the East”, the domestic water buffalo is an integral part of life in Asia providing food, labor and transportation for millions of people. Although domestic water buffalo may seem a lot like cattle, they do behave differently. For instance, unlike cattle which can be driven by cowboys on horseback or dogs, water buffalo must be led or walked beside and they will instinctively follow the rancher.
Female water buffalo usually produce calves once every two years. Male calves will stay with their maternal herd for about 3 years before joining an all-male herd of their own, whereas females usually reach maturity in about 2 years time. Their average life expectancy in the wild is 9 years.
The wild water buffalo population has been in decline in recent years due to poaching and disease with the majority of the remaining population living in Asian wildlife preserves. However, as much of their existing habitat is being converted to agricultural land, conservationists are working hard to relocate some herds to other environments.
WATER BUFFALO FACTS
- Water buffalo can be up to six and a half feet tall.
- Domestic water buffalo live 25 years on average in captivity.
- Water buffalo milk is often used to make gourmet mozzarella cheese.
Bufala di Vermont