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Water Buffalo – What They Eat, Natural Locations, and Adaptations

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The Buffalo; a member of the bovid family is one of the largest mammals found across the world. This animal has a place in our evolutionary history too. The Buffalo was a wild animal that was only domesticated around 5000 years ago in India. There are various breeds of this bovid that are found around the world and are named accordingly.

African Buffalo or Cape Buffalo in the wild

What does a buffalo eat? 

This bovine is an herbivore; it eats only plants and vegetation, having said that, grass is its favorite food both the wild and domestic buffaloes never venture too far from water bodies.

Since they are majorly found in Asia and Africa, due to the humid weather the buffaloes spend a lot of time laying in still water bodies. These animals have specially designed hooves that help them wade through the thick mud in the swamps and water bodies.

When part of a farmer’s herd, buffalo eat anything available at the farm; including the hay and food grains that other farm animals feed on. The water buffaloes also eat seaweed and other water plants while lying in the water bodies.

Buffaloes, like cattle, are ruminants meaning that whatever they use the rumen to digest whatever they eat. They are called “cud-chewing animals”; they spit up whatever they have eaten and chew it slowing throughout the day, helping in further breakdown of the roughage they eat.

water buffaloes feeding on grass

The farmers should be giving fibrous rich roughage to the domestic buffaloes to increase the nutrients of the milk that the buffalo produces. If a buffalo can’t find any grass, they also resort to eating shrubs and bushes instead.

Buffaloes Around the World

The buffalo is typically distinguished into two broad categories: Wild and Domesticated. The domesticated water buffaloes are originally from India and Southeast Asia, but they are also found in the continents of Europe, Australia, America, and Africa!

The largest population of domestic buffaloes are found in India. The wild buffaloes which are found in America are called the “American Bison”. The same wild animals are called “Cape Buffaloes” on the African continent.

Physical Characteristics

These mammals are heavy and can weigh anything between 660 – 1200 pounds. There are subspecies of the buffalo family which also weighs over 2,000 pounds!

The male buffalo can grow in height to about 55 inches whereas the females grow tend to max out around 50 inches. There is a vast variety of these animals as they have been the most interbred mammals.

Members of the buffalo family have a stocky build and are slate grey in color, with horns growing backward and curving upward towards the end.

There are two kinds of domestic water buffaloes: the river buffaloes who wade and spend most of their time in deep water and the swamp buffaloes which prefer rolling around in the mud, using their horns to dig out mud from the swamps.

Asian water buffalo enjoy swimming in a mud swamp with a white bird buddy on its back in nature

Historic Significance

It is believed that the first herd of buffaloes were domesticated in India around 5000 years ago and in China 1000 years after that. The carvings on some of our historic monuments have buffaloes doing various physical activities for the common man.

The farmers used them to plough their fields; they also have been shown as a means of transportation in the old days. These buffaloes used to carry people and their products from one place to another by pulling a cart. They were also bartered in exchange for other goods that a farmer would want.

A Useful Animal

All the body parts of a buffalo can be put to some use or the other. Buffalo milk is said to be richer in proteins and fat, in comparison to cattle milk.

The horns of a buffalo are still used to make ornaments and some indigenous tribes also make weapons of these horns.

Buffalo meat is also eaten in various parts of the world. The skin of the buffalo is used to make garments, especially to keep people warm during harsh winters.

So it can be comfortably said that all parts of a buffalo can be put use to for our various day to day activities.

Social Animals

Buffaloes, like the other land mammals, are said to have a social nature. They are always found in large herds and move from one place to another in their groups.

The herds are also divided in accordance with the gender in some subspecies. The calves tend to be with the maternal herd until the age of three years, after which they join the male herd. The number of buffaloes in a herd can go up to 1000 in some cases.

Natural Adaptions for Life Near Water

As mentioned earlier the buffalo is a strong bovine weighing up to 2,200 pounds. The buffalo has special, wide hooves, which help when walking through mud. This natural adaptation for muddy footing is one of the reasons they are still used today to plow rice fields in remote parts of India and South-East Asia.

farmer and buffalo working on ricefield

This unique feature has helped it earn its name “Tractor of the East”. Sadly the buffalo is hunted for its horns and buffalo leather is very considered to be very good for making warm clothes.

The huge horns of a buffalo help in putting up a good fight against its natural predators in the jungle-like the lion, tiger, crocodile, etc.

These heavy bovines can, surprisingly, run very fast if faced with danger. In fact, is believed that they can run at a speed of 30 miles an hour.

The buffalo mates during the rainy season and the females are pregnant for 11 months. The milk of the buffalo is considered to be richer in fat and proteins, the reason why the calves turn into young and healthy buffaloes very fast.

This milk is also used to produce all kinds of dairy products like butter, cheese, cream, ghee, etc. Buffalo milk is used to make the famous cheeses in the world like ricotta, mozzarella, etc.

The meat of the water buffalo is very tough and hard but is still eaten in some regions of the world; making India an exporter of the same as the highest number of water buffaloes are found in the Indian sub-continent.

Final Thoughts

The water buffalo is a beautiful member of the bovine family that has been an integral part of human history for over 5,000 years. The buffalo eats grasses, shrubs and bushes as well as any hay or grains the farmer might provide to it. They have many uses on a farm including helping with crops, providing milk and cheese as well as providing meat and leather.

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