Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Wild Buffalo

Wild Buffalo UPSC

The Wild Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee), also called Asian buffalo, Asiatic buffalo and wild buffalo, is a large bovine native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

The Wild Buffalo is distributed across several countries in South and Southeast Asia, including India, Nepal, Bhutan, and parts of Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia.

Similar to the American bison, Indian wild buffalo is a social species that forms herds. They are known for their wallowing behavior, often covering themselves in mud to cool down and protect themselves from insects.

The wild water buffalo is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Conservation efforts are underway to protect and preserve the remaining populations. Threats include habitat loss, poaching, and competition with domestic livestock.

Table of Contents

  • Wild Buffalo Characteristics
    • Classification
    • Scientific Name
    • Habitat
    • Physical Appearance
    • Diet
    • Behavior
    • Reproduction
    • Lifespan
    • Speed
  • Wild Buffalo Population in India
  • Wild Buffalo Protection Status
  • Wild Buffalo Conservation in India
  • Threats
  • Wild Buffalo Facts
  • Wild Buffalo UPSC Question

Wild Buffalo Characteristics

What are the characteristics of the Wild Buffalo?

Here are some key characteristics of the wild buffalo:

1. Classification:

The wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) belongs to the following taxonomic classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Bovidae
  • Subfamily: Bovinae
  • Genus: Bubalus
  • Species: Bubalus arnee

2. Scientific Name:

The scientific name of the wild water buffalo is Bubalus arnee.

3. Habitat:

The wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) inhabits a variety of wetland and grassland habitats in South and Southeast Asia. Their specific habitat preferences may vary among subspecies, but in general, wild water buffaloes are associated with environments that provide access to water and ample vegetation. Here are some key aspects of their habitat:

(i) Wetlands and Swamps:

Wild water buffaloes are often found in areas with extensive wetlands, marshes, and swamps. They are well adapted to aquatic environments and are strong swimmers. These habitats provide not only water for drinking but also areas for wallowing, a behavior that helps them regulate body temperature and protect themselves from parasites.

(ii) Grasslands and Riparian Areas:

They also inhabit grassland areas and regions near rivers and other water bodies. These areas offer grazing opportunities, and the proximity to water sources is crucial for their survival.

(iii) Forested Areas:

In some cases, wild water buffaloes may also venture into forested areas, especially during certain times of the year. Forests can provide additional foraging opportunities and cover.

(iv) Human-Altered Landscapes:

In regions where their natural habitats have been altered by human activities, wild water buffaloes may also be found in agricultural areas and other human-modified landscapes.

(v) Geographical Range:

The geographical range of wild water buffaloes includes countries such as India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and possibly other regions in Southeast Asia.

4. Physical Appearance:

The wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) is a large and robust species with distinct physical features. Here are key aspects of their physical appearance:

(i) Size and Weight:

Wild water buffaloes are among the largest bovids (members of the cattle family). Adult males, known as bulls, are generally larger than females, or cows. Bulls can weigh over a ton (1,000 kg or more).

  • Head-to-body length: Approximately 240 to 300 cm (94 to 118 inches).
  • Tail length: Approximately 60 to 100 cm (24 to 39 inches).
  • Shoulder height: Approximately 150 to 190 cm (59 to 75 inches).

(ii) Coat Color:

They typically have a dark brown to black coat, which can appear almost purple in certain lighting conditions. The coloration may vary somewhat among individuals and subspecies.

(iii) Horns:

Both males and females have long, backward-curving horns. The horns are larger in males and can span up to 2 meters (approximately 6.6 feet). These horns are used for defense, dominance displays, and other social interactions.

(iv) Body Shape:

Wild water buffaloes have a massive and stocky body with a pronounced hump on their shoulders. The hump is more prominent in males. Their body is well-adapted for a herbivorous diet, and they are efficient grazers.

(v) Ears and Tail:

They have relatively large, drooping ears and a tufted tail. The tail is often used to swat away insects, especially during wallowing activities.

5. Diet:

The Indian wild buffalo (wild water buffalo) is primarily a herbivorous animal with a diet consisting mainly of vegetation. Their diet can vary based on the availability of resources in their habitat. Here are key aspects of their diet:

(i) Grasses:

Wild water buffaloes are grazers, and grass forms a significant part of their diet. They feed on various grass species found in their natural habitats, including wetlands and grasslands.

(ii) Aquatic Plants:

Being well-adapted to aquatic environments, wild water buffaloes also consume a variety of aquatic plants. They are known to wade into water bodies to feed on submerged vegetation.

(iii) Herbs and Shrubs:

In addition to grasses, they may also browse on herbs and shrubs present in their habitat. This provides them with a diverse range of nutrients.

(iv) Agricultural Crops:

In areas where their natural habitats are in close proximity to agricultural lands, wild water buffaloes may occasionally feed on crops. This can lead to conflicts with farmers.

Their feeding behavior is influenced by the seasonal availability of resources, and they may move to different areas in search of food. The ability to graze on a variety of vegetation allows them to adapt to different environments, from grassy plains to wetlands.

6. Behavior:

The behavior of the Indian wild buffalo (wild water buffalo) is shaped by various factors, including their social structure, feeding habits, and interactions with their environment. Here are some key aspects of their behavior:

(i) Social Structure:

Wild water buffaloes are social animals that typically form herds. These herds are often led by a dominant male, known as the bull. Within the herd, there is a hierarchical structure, and individual buffalo may exhibit various social behaviors to establish and maintain their position within the group.

(ii) Communication:

Wild water buffaloes communicate through various vocalizations, body language, and olfactory signals. These forms of communication help in coordinating group movements and maintaining social bonds.

(iii) Wallowing Behavior:

Wild water buffaloes are known for their wallowing behavior, where they cover themselves in mud. This serves multiple purposes, including regulating body temperature, protecting against parasites, and providing relief from biting insects.

(iv) Feeding Patterns:

Wild water buffaloes are primarily grazers, and their feeding patterns are influenced by the availability of vegetation in their habitat. They may graze on grasslands, feed on aquatic plants in wetlands, and browse on herbs, fruits, and bark.

(v) Territorial Behavior:

Wild water buffaloes may exhibit territorial behavior, especially during the breeding season. Males may engage in displays of dominance to establish mating rights.

(vi) Swimming Abilities:

These buffaloes are excellent swimmers and are known to traverse water bodies with ease. Swimming is a natural behavior that aids in accessing different parts of their habitat.

(vii) Nocturnal and Diurnal Activity:

Wild water buffaloes can exhibit both diurnal and nocturnal activity patterns, and their behavior may be influenced by factors such as temperature and human activities.

7. Reproduction:

The reproduction of the wild buffalo involves distinct behaviors and reproductive strategies. Here are key aspects of their reproductive process:

(i) Breeding Season:

They are seasonal breeders in most of their range, with the typical breeding season occurring in October and November. Some populations may exhibit year-round breeding behavior.

(ii) Mating Behavior:

Dominant males mate with females within a clan. After mating, females may drive off the males.

(iii) Gestation Period:

The gestation period for Indian wild buffaloes is approximately 10 to 11 months.

(iv) Reproductive Cycle:

The inter-birth interval is around one year, indicating that females typically give birth annually.

(v) Offspring:

Indian wild buffaloes typically give birth to a single offspring, although the occurrence of twins is possible but rare.

(vi) Sexual Maturity:

  • Males reach sexual maturity at around 18 months of age.
  • Females reach sexual maturity at around three years of age.

8. Lifespan:

The lifespan of the Indian wild buffalo (wild water buffalo) can vary in the wild and in captivity. In the wild, various factors, including environmental conditions, predation, and human-wildlife conflicts, can influence their lifespan. In captivity, where they may benefit from veterinary care and protection from certain threats, their lifespan can potentially be longer.

Here are some general considerations regarding the lifespan of the Indian wild buffalo:

(i) In the Wild:

In their natural habitat, the lifespan of wild water buffaloes is typically around 20 to 25 years. However, various factors such as predation, diseases, and environmental conditions can influence individual lifespans.

(ii) In Captivity:

In well-managed captive settings, such as wildlife reserves or conservation programs, Indian wild buffaloes may live longer than their counterparts in the wild. With proper care, protection from threats, and access to veterinary attention, individuals in captivity can potentially reach or exceed 25 years.

9. Speed:

The Indian wild buffalo is not known for its exceptional speed. Unlike some other ungulates, such as antelopes, which are adapted for rapid running, wild water buffaloes are more suited to a sedentary lifestyle in their preferred wetland and grassland habitats.

Their large and robust build, with a massive body and relatively short legs, is not well-designed for sustained high-speed running. Instead, wild water buffaloes rely on their size, strength, and social structure as a means of defense against predators. When threatened, they may use their considerable bulk to intimidate or confront potential threats rather than relying on speed.

Wild Buffalo Population in India

Where is Wild Buffalo found in India?

The population of wild water buffaloes in India were concentrated in specific regions. Wild buffaloes are primarily found in the northeastern and eastern parts of India, particularly in the states of Assam, West Bengal, and Bihar.

The majority of the population in India is found in North-Eastern states. The estimated population of wild buffaloes in the Northeast of India is around 3,000-4,000, accounting for 92% of the world population.

In India, wild water buffaloes are found in the following National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries:

Assam: Kaziranga, Manas and Dibru-Saikhowa National Parks, Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary and Bura Chapori Wildlife Sanctuary  

Arunachal Pradesh: D’Ering Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary 

Meghalaya: Balphakram National Park 

Chhattisgarh: Indravati National Park and Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary.

Wild Buffalo Protection Status

The wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee), holds various protection statuses to ensure its conservation. Here are the key protection statuses:

1. IUCN Status:

The wild water buffalo is classified as "Endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. This designation indicates that the species faces a high risk of extinction in the wild.

2. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora):

The wild water buffalo is included in CITES Appendix III. Appendix III includes species that are subject to regulation within the countries that are party to CITES, with the aim of controlling international trade to ensure it does not harm the survival of the species.

3. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (India):

The Indian wild buffalo is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Schedule I includes species that receive the highest level of legal protection in India. Offenses related to Schedule I species are subjected to severe penalties.

Wild Buffalo Conservation in India

Conservation efforts for the wild buffalo (wild water buffalo) in India involve a combination of legal protection, habitat preservation, community engagement, and monitoring. The species faces various threats, and conservation initiatives aim to address these challenges to ensure the long-term survival of the population. Here are some key aspects of wild buffalo conservation in India:

1. Legal Protection:

The wild buffalo is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, providing it with the highest level of legal protection in India. Strict penalties are imposed for offenses related to hunting, poaching, and illegal trade of wild buffaloes.

2. Habitat Protection and Management:

The establishment and management of protected areas, including national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, play a crucial role in wild buffalo conservation. Key habitats for wild buffaloes, such as Kaziranga, Manas, and Dibru-Saikhowa National Parks, are actively managed to maintain suitable conditions for the species.

3. Translocation and Population Monitoring:

Translocation programs have been initiated to establish or augment populations in suitable habitats. Ongoing monitoring efforts track the population size, health, and distribution of wild buffalo populations.

4. Community Engagement:

Involving local communities in conservation efforts is essential for the success of initiatives. Community-based conservation programs help raise awareness, reduce human-wildlife conflicts, and build support for conservation measures.

5. Research and Conservation Planning:

Scientific research is conducted to understand the ecology, behavior, and health of wild buffalo populations. Conservation plans are developed based on research findings to address specific challenges facing the species.

6. Anti-Poaching Measures:

Robust anti-poaching measures are implemented to curb illegal hunting and trade. Training and equipping local forest personnel are critical components of anti-poaching efforts.

7. Education and Awareness:

Educational programs and awareness campaigns are conducted to inform the public, local communities, and stakeholders about the importance of wild buffalo conservation. Creating a sense of pride and responsibility toward the species helps garner support for conservation initiatives.

8. International Collaboration:

Collaboration with international organizations, research institutions, and conservation bodies enhances the effectiveness of conservation efforts. Information exchange, sharing of best practices, and collaborative research contribute to a holistic approach.


The wild buffalo faces several threats that impact its population and habitat. These threats are diverse and often interconnected, posing challenges to the conservation of this species. Here are some key threats to the Indian wild buffalo:

1. Habitat Loss and Fragmentation:

Conversion of natural habitats into agricultural land, infrastructure development, and human settlements result in habitat loss and fragmentation. Reduced availability of suitable habitats can limit the range and dispersal of wild buffalo populations.

2. Human-Wildlife Conflict:

In areas where wild buffaloes share landscapes with human populations, conflicts arise over crop foraging and damage. Retaliatory killings may occur as a response to perceived threats to agricultural livelihoods.

3. Poaching and Illegal Trade:

Poaching for body parts, including horns and skin, poses a significant threat to wild buffalo populations. The illegal trade in buffalo parts can lead to population declines and disrupt natural behaviors.

4. Disease Transmission:

Interactions with domestic livestock pose a risk of disease transmission to wild buffalo populations. Diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease can have severe consequences for the health of wild buffaloes.

5. Hunting and Persecution:

Historically, hunting for sport and persecution due to conflicts with agriculture and settlements have contributed to population declines.

6. Genetic Hybridization:

Interbreeding with domestic water buffaloes and feral populations can result in genetic dilution of the wild buffalo gene pool. Hybridization can affect the species' adaptability and resilience.

7. Invasive Species:

Invasive plant species and the spread of non-native vegetation can alter the composition of natural habitats, affecting the availability of preferred forage for wild buffaloes.

Wild Buffalo Facts

Here are some interesting facts about the wild buffalo:

1. Distribution: Found in various countries in Asia, including India, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand, and Cambodia. Historically present in Bangladesh, Laos, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, but has been extirpated in these areas.

2. Habitat: Associated with wet grasslands, swamps, flood plains, and densely vegetated river valleys. Prefers areas with access to water, and is an excellent swimmer.

3. Size and Appearance: One of the largest and heaviest bovid species. Males are generally larger than females, and both sexes bear heavy, wide-spreading horns. Coarse and sparse coat, often ash-gray to black in color.

4. Behavior: Social animals that form herds led by a dominant male. Communicate through vocalizations, body language, and olfactory signals. Known for wallowing in mud and water, which helps regulate body temperature and protect against parasites.

5. Diet: Primarily grazers, feeding on grasses in grasslands and wetlands. Also consumes aquatic plants, herbs, fruits, and bark. In some areas, known to feed on crops like rice, sugarcane, and jute.

6. Cultural Significance: In some regions, the wild water buffalo holds cultural and religious significance. It is sometimes associated with local myths, traditions, and rituals.

7. State Animal: Indian Wild Buffalo is the state animal of Chhattisgarh.

Wild Buffalo UPSC Question

Q. What is the IUCN status of Wild Buffalo?

A. The wild buffalo (Bubalus arnee) is classified as "Endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The "Endangered" status indicates that the species faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future if the threats to its survival are not adequately addressed.

Q. What is the difference between Indian Gaur and Wild Buffalo?

A. Indian Gaur (Bos gaurus) and Wild Buffalo (Bubalus arnee) are two distinct species of large herbivores found in South and Southeast Asia. While they share some similarities, there are key differences in terms of their taxonomy, physical characteristics, behavior, and distribution. Here's a comparison between the Indian Gaur and the Wild Buffalo:

1. Taxonomy:

Indian Gaur:

  • Family: Bovidae
  • Genus: Bos
  • Species: Bos gaurus

Wild Buffalo:

  • Family: Bovidae
  • Genus: Bubalus
  • Species: Bubalus arnee

2. Physical Characteristics:

Indian Gaur:

  • Massive and sturdy build with a hump over the shoulders.
  • Dark brown to almost black coat.
  • Both males and females have upward-curving horns.

Wild Buffalo:

  • Large and stocky build with a distinctive hump over the shoulders.
  • Coarse and sparse coat, often ash-gray to black.
  • Both males and females have heavy, wide-spreading horns.

3. Size:

Indian Gaur:

  • Generally larger and heavier than Wild Buffalo.
  • Males can weigh over 1,000 kg.

Wild Buffalo:

  • Still a large bovid but slightly smaller than the Indian Gaur.
  • Males can weigh up to 1,200 kg.

4. Distribution:

Indian Gaur:

Found in various habitats ranging from evergreen forests to grasslands in South and Southeast Asia, including India.

Wild Buffalo:

Primarily found in wet grasslands, swamps, flood plains, and river valleys in South and Southeast Asia, including India.

5. Habitat Preferences:

Indian Gaur:

  • Adapted to a variety of forested habitats.
  • Often found in hilly or mountainous terrain.

Wild Buffalo:

  • Associated with wetlands, grasslands, and riverine habitats.
  • Excellent swimmers and often found near water bodies.

6. Conservation Status:

Indian Gaur:

  • Classified as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List.

Wild Buffalo:

  • Classified as "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List.

7. Behavior:

Indian Gaur:

  • Prefer a more solitary lifestyle or small groups.
  • Can be diurnal or nocturnal.

Wild Buffalo:

  • Form herds led by a dominant male.
  • Active both during the day and night.

Wild Buffalo

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