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Dwarf Forest Buffalo

Syncerus caffer nanus

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

Our herd of Dwarf Forest Buffalo can be seen in the Savannah section of the road safari. Here they roam in their 50 acre exhibit with a number of other African species.

Native to West and Central Africa.
High densities of open grassland within the equatorial forest and the lower densities of continuous forest.
1.3 m
265 to 565 kg
30 Years
Hunting, habitat loss, disease and predation by leopards.

Social Behaviour

Forest buffalo live in small herds of 8 to 20 individuals consisting of related females, their offspring and one or more males. Bonds between females in a herd are strong and if one is attacked by a predator the rest of the herd will respond to its bellowing distress calls and rush to its defence. Males not belonging to a herd are solitary or form bachelor herds. Threat behaviour opposed to aggressive fighting is usually sufficient to maintain a hierarchy among adult bulls and it is body size that determines dominance among males. Dominant bulls will usually keep their standing for 4 to 5 years and although fights between bulls are infrequent and brief they are violent and potentially fatal. Bulls often head-spar, a milder form of fighting that has the general appearance of play, to establish dominance status. Young buffalo can regularly be seen running in circles, prancing and butting each other to practice these aggressive/protective behaviours which they will need as adults.

Breeding Behaviour

Forest Buffalo have a gestation period of 11 to 12 months and will give birth to single calf. They will breed all year round but it is most usual that they give birth during the wet season. When the calves are born they have a very light chestnut coat and they will be weaned from their mother at the age of 6 months.


Forest buffalo graze extensively on fresh grass turning only to herbs, shrubs and trees when there is a deficiency of grazing. They have a wide incisor row and long tongue which help it to rip large bundles of grass at a time and consume vast amounts quickly.

Physical Features

Male and female forest buffalo have horns and they can grow up to 40cm in length. They are swept backwards as an adaptation to forest life as horns that were swept forwards or upwards could snag on branches and hinder their escape from predators. Their horns completely cover their forehead providing protection for when the males have pushing contests. Their coat can range in colour from bright red to dark brown and males especially will darken with age. There are no distinct markings on their body and their large ears are edged by a long fringe of hairs. They also have a long dorsal mane, good hearing and a great sense of smell however, their eyesight is less acute.


The distribution of this species has shrunk due to hunting, habitat loss and disease however, populations of Dwarf Forest Buffalo still occur in considerable numbers. Buffalo outside of national parks will often come into contact with humans and in some areas will break fences and raid crops which has in the past lead to their persecution. They can also fall prey to Leopards and become affected by diseases carried by cattle that have been introduced to particular areas.

Fun Facts

They will on average spend 18 hours per day foraging and moving through the forest.

The Buffalo at Woburn can be seen taking on species as large as the Eland and the White Rhino!

Herds will stick together and charge as a unit when they feel threatened. This tactic ensures that predators have difficulty preying on members of the herd even if they are young and feeble.

They will often bathe in mud wallows to protect them from insects. Bird species such as the Oxpecker and Cattle Egret also help with the Buffalos insect problem as they will frequently accompany buffalo feeding on insects flushed from the grass as the buffalo walk and will eat the biting insects from their skin.

Their loss of body water through evaporation can be reduced by allowing their body temperature to gradually rise through the day and then disperse the stored heat at night.