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Water Buffalo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Adult Water Buffalo range in size from 400 to 900 kg (880 to 2,000 lb) for the domestic breeds, while the wild animals are nearly 3 m (9.8 ft) long and 2 m (6.6 ft) tall, weighing up to 1,200 kg (2,600 lb); females are about two-thirds this size.

River buffalo are usually black and have long curled horns, whereas swamp buffalo can be black or white, or both, with gently curved horns. The largest recorded horns are just under 2 metres long.

There are differences between swamp buffalo and river buffalo. Swamp buffalo have swept back horns and are native to the eastern half of Asia from India to Taiwan. All are similar in general appearance. River buffalo generally have curved horns and are native to the western half of Asia.

The rumen (the first chamber of the digestive system of a ruminant) of the Water Buffalo has important differences to that of other ruminants. It consists of essential microorganisms; namely bacteria, protozoa and fungi which digest the food to produce fermentation end-products via anaerobic fermentation or Embden-Myerhof pathway.

The Water Buffalo rumen has been found to contain a larger population of bacteria particularly the cellulolytic bacteria, lower protozoa and higher fungi zoospores. In addition, higher rumen ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) and higher pH have been found as compared to those in cattle.

Genetic pollution and threat of extinction

Wild Water Buffalo are threatened by genetic pollution when they come into contact with common domestic Water Buffalo which live in and around forests. The domesticated animals daily graze within forests which have been designated as wildlife sanctuaries and national parks for their wild ancestors. The only predator of adult Wild Water Buffalo is the Tiger. The smaller and less aggressive domesticated water buffalo can be taken by more predators, especially the saltwater crocodile (which, rarely, if ever encounters the original wild buffalo species).


Water Buffalo

Water buffalo cow in Thailand

The Water Buffalo or domestic Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is a large bovine animal, frequently used as livestock in Asia, and also widely in South America, southern Europe, north Africa and elsewhere. In 2000, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that there were approximately 158 million water buffalo in the world and that 97% of them (approximately 153 million animals) were in Asia. There are established feral populations in northern Australia but the dwindling true wild populations are thought to survive in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Thailand. All the domestic varieties and breeds descend from one common ancestor, the Wild Water Buffalo, which is now an endangered species.

Buffalo are used as draft, meat and dairy animals. Their dung is used as a fertilizer and as a fuel when dried. In Chonburi, Thailand, and in South Malabar Region in Kerala, India, there are annual water buffalo races. A few have also found use as pack animals carrying loads even for special forces.

American bison are known as buffalo in parts of North America, but not normally in other usages; bison are more closely related to cattle, gaur, banteng, and yaks than to Asian buffalo. The water buffalo genus includes water buffalo, tamaraw and anoas—all Asian species. The ancestry of the African buffalo is unclear, but it is not

Wild Water Buffalo

Conservation status

Scientific classification

The Wild Water Buffalo, Wild Asian Buffalo or Wild Asiatic Buffalo (Bubalis bubalis arnee or Bubalis arnee) is a large ungulate, a member of the bovine subfamily and the ancestor of the domestic Water Buffalo. It is the second largest wild bovid, smaller only than the Gaur. It is an endangered species, thought to survive in (from west to east) India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand. Wild Asian water buffalo is extinct in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Laos and Viet Nam. Feral water buffalo occur in northern Australia.

The IUCN Red List of threatened species classifies the Wild Water Buffalo as an endangered species. The total number of Wild Asian Buffalo left is thought to be less than 4,000, which suggests that the number of mature individuals will be less than 2,500, and an estimated continuing decline of at least 20 percent within 14 years (ca. two generations) and at least 50 percent within 21 years seems likely given the severity of the threats, especially hybridization with the abundant domestic water buffalo leading to genetic pollution.

The domestic Water Buffalo, although derived from the Wild Water Buffalo, is the product of thousands of years of selective breeding carried out by ancient Asian civilizations, especially in Pakistan and India.

The slightly smaller African Buffalo or Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is not closely related to water buffalo.


Type Locality: "Habitat in Asia, cultus in Italia". Restricted by Thomas (1911a:154) to Italy, Rome, but Linnaeus' (1758) comment indicates Asia (India?).

Distribution: Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India (survives in Assam and Orissa), Nepal, N Thailand, Vietnam, and possibly at least formerly in Laos; domesticated in N Africa, S Europe, and even England, east to Indonesia and in E South America; supposedly feral populations in Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Philippines and other parts of SE Asia; feral populations resulting from introductions in New Britain and New Ireland (Bismarck Arch., Papua New Guinea), and Australia. Status: CITES – Appendix III (Nepal) as B. arnee (excludes domesticated forms - but see comments below; IUCN – Endangered

Average lifespan in captivity: up to 25 years


Water Buffalo ploughing rice fields in Java,Indonesia

Asia is the native home of the water buffalo, with 95% of the world population of water buffalo, with about half of the total in India. Many Asian countries depend on the water buffalo as its primary bovine species. It is valuable for its meat and milk as well as the labour it performs. As of 1992 the Asian population was estimated at 141 million. The fat content of buffalo milk is the highest amongst farm animals and the butterfat is a major source of ghee in some Asian countries. Its success in Asia is evident by its extensive range. Both variants occur in Asia. River buffalo are found in elevations of 2,800 m in Nepal, and swamp buffalo are found throughout the lowland tropics. Part of their success is due to their ability to thrive on poor foodstuffs and yet be valuable economically. Moreover they are much better suited to plough the muddy paddy fields as they are better adapted than common cattle (Bos taurus) to move in swamps.

Buffalo headcount in 2004
Carabao Cart


Swamp buffalo were introduced into the Northern Territory early in the 19th century as a beast of burden. They escaped and became feral, causing significant environmental damage. As a result of this it may be hunted. Melville Island is a popular hunting location, where a steady population of up to 4,000 individuals exist. Buffalo are also found in Arnhem Land and the Top End. Safari outfits run out of Darwin to Melville Island and other locations in the Top End often with the use of bush pilots. The government has unsuccessfully attempted several eradication programs. Their only natural predator in Australia are large adult saltwater crocodiles, with whom they share the billabongs.

The buffalo live mainly in freshwater marshes and billabongs, and their range can be quite expansive during the Wet season. They have developed a different appearance from the Indonesian buffalo from which they descend.

Europe and Middle East

Introduced into North Africa and the Near East by 600 AD, the water buffalo was brought to Europe with returning Crusaders in the Middle Ages, and herds can be found in Bulgaria, Romania and Italy. As in Asia, buffalo of the Middle East and Europe live on coarse vegetation on the marginal land traditionally available to peasants. They are an economic asset by serving as a protein source, draft animal, and storage of family or household wealth. In some areas, they also provide occasional recreation at annual racing festivals. These buffalo are mostly river buffalo; due to genetic isolation, they have adopted a distinct appearance. Buffalo milk is used for the production of buffalo mozzarella in Campania and many other locations around the world.


Water buffalo are a traditional farm animal in Egypt, which has a large number of them. They are used as the main source of red meat in Egypt.[citation needed] Cows have been introduced in modern farms, yet water buffalo remain as the more widespread type of cattle in Egypt.[citation needed]

 North America

Water buffalo heifers in Arkansas, USA

There are very limited commercial herds in North America, for yogurt and cheese products.[10] Importance to humans

There are many breeds of domestic water buffalo.

Water buffalo have been domesticated for 5,000 years and have become economically important animals. They provide more than 5% of the world’s milk supply and 20% to 30% of the farm power in Southeast Asia. Milk from these animals is used by many human populations, and is the traditional raw material for mozzarella cheese and curd due to its higher fat content. In Africa and other locations, water buffalo milk is used for yogurt, as in Vermont, USA. The chief dairy breed of Buffalo is the Murrah breed. Buffalo meat, sometimes called "Carabeef", is often passed off as beef in certain regions and is also a major source of export revenue for India which has the largest population of buffalo in the world. However, in many Asian regions, buffalo meat is less preferred due to its toughness, however, recipes have evolved (Rendang for example) where the slow cooking process and spices not only make the meat palatable, but also preserves it; an important factor in hot climates where refrigeration is not always available. Water buffalo horns are used for the embouchure of musical instruments such as ney and kaval. Water buffalo hide provides a tough and useful leather often used for shoes and motorcycle helmets. The bones and horns are often made into jewelry, especially earrings.

The water buffalo has promise as a major source of meat, even the milking ones. The water buffalo also is the classic work animal in Asia, an integral part of that continent’s traditional village farming structure and also used for hauling cotton, pumping water in Pakistan and hauling logs in Turkey. The domesticated water buffalo is often referred to as “the living tractor of the East” as it is relied upon for plowing and transportation in many parts of Asia. Nutrition

Milk Composition Analysis, per 100 grams

Constituents unit Cow Goat Sheep Buffalo
Water g 87.8 88.9 83.0 81.1
Protein g 3.2 3.1 5.4 4.5
Fat g 3.9 3.5 6.0 8.0
Carbohydrate g 4.8 4.4 5.1 4.9
Energy kcal 66 60 95 110
kJ 275 253 396 463
Sugars (Lactose) g 4.8 4.4 5.1 4.9
Fatty Acids:
Saturated g 2.4 2.3 3.8 4.2
Mono-unsaturated g 1.1 0.8 1.5 1.7
Polyunsaturated g 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.2
Cholesterol mg 14 10 11 8
Calcium iu 120 100 170 195

[Full citation needed]

Top Ten Buffalo Milk Producers — 11 June 2008
Country Production (Tonnes) Footnote
 India 56960000 *
 Pakistan 21500000 P
 People's Republic of China 2900000 F
 Egypt 2300000 F
 Nepal 930000 F
 Iran 241500 F
 Myanmar 205000 F
 Italy 200000 F
 Turkey 35100 F
 Vietnam 31000 F
 World 85396902 A
No symbol = official figure, P = official figure, F = FAO estimate, * = Unofficial/Semi-official/mirror data, C = Calculated figure A = Aggregate(may include official, semi-official or estimates);

Source: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Devision