Cape Buffalo on Safari in Kenya
“O h, give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the cantaloupe play” are the lyrics to a melon-choly poem called The Western Home by Brewster Martin Higley VI — who was an otolaryngologist but apparently was one of many people who confused bison for buffalo — that eventually became better known as Home On the Range, which is the official song for the state of Kansas and is arguably considered the de facto song of the American West.
Cape Buffalo on Safari in Kenya
We spotted a very large herd of buffalo off in the distance; so we approached closer to it.
Cape buffalo Syncerus is also known as African buffalo is are considered one of the big five game in Africa along with the lion, elephant, rhinoceros and leopard — the last of which I almost spotted but did not see while on safari…
…but in no way are either Cape buffalo in Africa or Water buffalo in South Asia — one of which was killed in a collision with a Boeing 737-800 airplane operated by SpiceJet in India back in November of 2014 — are closely related to bison.
In fact, no species of buffalo are indigenous to North America — so perhaps the city in western New York state should have been named Bison instead of Buffalo.
I have seen plenty of bison while visiting Yellowstone National Park some years ago; so when I first saw buffalo while on Safari in Africa, I did not believe that they resembled bison.
To me, their horns are a significantly distinctive feature. Instead of being separated — as are the horns of many animals — the horns are fused at the base of the head of Cape buffalo. This continuous bone shield is also known as a boss. The horns reminded me of those hairstyles on men from decades ago where the hair was parted in the center.
Birds known as oxpeckers graze on ticks and other insects on the backs of Cape buffalo — as these two have been doing.
The oxpeckers are a mixed blessing…
…while they do help to control parasites which feed on Cape buffalo, they too can also act as parasites, opening new wounds to drink the blood of their hosts. You might be able to see scarring on the back of this Cape buffalo.
A female Cape buffalo nudges her young calf to move forward.
Cape buffalo are rather social animals — to each other, anyway. They are considered quite dangerous and have been known to kill greater than 200 human beings every year — mostly by goring them with their horns.
Cape buffalo are fiercely protective of their young — and of each other — despite the fact that they have few predators.
The horns of this young calf are not yet developed.
Lions have been known to prey on Cape buffalo — sometimes taking one Cape buffalo down requires the attack of several lions simultaneously — but Cape buffaloes are also capable of killing predators which attack them.
I did not know which photograph I liked better: this one of two Cape buffalo in their natural state…
…or this photograph where they seem to pose for me.
It was time for the herd to continue on its migration.
Cape buffalo typically follow each other in at least one line, roughly equidistant from one another.
There are at least two lines of Cape buffalo moving in this large herd: one of the lines is in the foreground.
According to my observations, Cape buffalo will stop in an area to wait for the remainder of the herd to catch up before continuing to move on with their migration.
The herd seemed to go on for miles.
This is a closer look at what appeared to be an injured Cape buffalo, which was amongst the last of the herd. Several members of the herd stayed behind to protect the limping animal and help it move along to eventually catch up to the rest of the herd at one of its stops.
I truly enjoyed watching animals in their native habitat going about their lives — such as when I was unexpectedly treated to witnessing a cheetah surprising its prey, killing it and feasting on it; or when I simply hung around with the awkward but graceful giraffes.
Watching zebras and their sometimes quirky behavior was interesting to me. There was the viewing of the lion with one eye with his lioness companion. I enjoyed hanging out with elephants at a watering hole.
…and let us not forget the different varieties of birds which I spotted while on safari in Kenya.
There are more photographs of different animals on deck from that safari to be highlighted in future articles — including but not limited to hippopotami and white rhinoceros — so please stay tuned.
My attempts to get the scoop on African buffalo by adding seedy humor to the first paragraph of this article are probably fruitless — I never have seen a cantaloupe play, anyway — so this article will instead end on a rather strange note with this grammatically correct sentence:
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.