buffalo, name commonly applied to the American bison but correctly restricted to certain related African and Asian mammals of the cattle family. The water buffalo, or Indian buffalo, Bubalus bubalis, is found in S Asia. It is a large, extremely strong, dark gray animal, standing nearly 6 ft (180 cm) at the shoulder and weighing up to 2,000 lb (900 kg). Its widely spread horns curve out and back in a semicircle and may reach a length of 6 ft (180 cm). For many centuries it has been domesticated as a draft animal, but wild forms still exist in Borneo and herds descended from domesticated animals live in a wild state elsewhere. Water buffalo live in swampy areas and near rivers, where they wallow in the mud. Wild water buffalo are extremely fierce and have been known to kill fully grown tigers. The domestic forms are somewhat more docile. They are used throughout S Asia to pull plows and carts; they are of little importance as dairy animals, as their milk is scant. Their diet consists chiefly of grass. The anoa, Anoa depressicornus, also called dwarf buffalo or wood buffalo, is the smallest of the buffalo, standing only 40 in. (100 cm) high at the shoulder; it is found in Sulawesi. Its slightly larger relative, the tamarou, Anoa mindorensis, is found in the Mindoro region of the Philippines. Both are forest dwellers. The large, fierce cape buffalo is found in Africa. Buffalo are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.
See D. A. Dary, The Buffalo Book (1974).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.