Ever wonder how fast a buffalo can run? In this article, you’ll learn the speeds these animals can get to, and how they compare to running speeds of other African animals.
We’ll be focused on one species of buffalo, the African Buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer). These creatures can be found in Sub-Saharan Africa, and there are an estimated 900,000 living on the continent.
Buffalo Running Speeds
African buffalo can run at top speeds of 35 mph (56 km/h). That’s pretty impressive, considering they’re huge!
African buffalo can get to around 5 feet 6 inches (1.7 meters) tall, 11 feet 2 inches (3.4 meters) long, and 1910 pounds (866 kilograms)!
African Buffalo Speed Compared: The rest of the Big Five
African buffalo are considered to be part of the Big Five, including lions, leopards, rhinos and elephants. They were originally given this name because of how difficult it was for people to hunt them.
Let’s take a look at how African buffalo running speeds compare to the Big Five:
- African Lion (Panthera leo): 50 mph (80.5 km/h) in short bursts
- African Leopard (Panthera pardus pardus): 35-37 mph (57-60 km/h)
- Rhinos, specifically the Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis): 34 mph (55 km/h)
- African Bush Elephants (Loxondonta africana): estimated 25 mph (40 km/h)
As we can see, while not the fastest, African buffalo can definitely hold their own with the rest of their Big Five compatriots.
How Can African Buffalo Run So Fast?
African buffalo’s have powerful legs. This is necessary to move their massive body weight at such high speeds.
Not only can they reach that high speed, but African buffalo can also get there quickly. In just seconds, they can reach 31 mph (50 km/h) from a standing start.
However, they can’t run at that speed for too long. African buffalo are more sprinters than long-distance runners.
Can a Human Outrun a African Buffalo?
No, humans can’t outrun African buffalo. At 35 mph (56 km/h), they run faster than any human ever recorded.
The fastest person in the world can run at 28 mph (45 km/h), and the average human can run around 8 mph (13 km/h). It wouldn’t be much of a race.
Why Do Buffalo Run?
African buffalo are aggressive and unpredictable. This is necessary to defend against predators, like lions and poachers. If wounded, African buffalo become even more angry and aggressive. They’re so dangerous that they’re sometimes called the “Black Death” or “Widowmaker”.
African buffalo are considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.
Unlike other animals that may show certain behaviors before attacking or running at you, African buffalo will give no warning before attacking. They may be doing something else entirely like grazing before charging and trampling anything its way.
Buffalo use the “best defense is a good offense” technique. They may charge when they feel threatened or they feel their young are threatened.
African buffalo have been known to kill their attackers, whether human or animal. They may actually take revenge on predators. African buffalo kill an estimated 200 people (including hunters) every year and have been known to kill lion cubs because their pride attacked the herd.
What Can You Do if You Encounter African Buffalo?
There are differing beliefs on how to survive an African buffalo running at you. As you don’t know whether or not they will charge you, one thing agreed upon is to never be within walking distance of a buffalo.
African buffalo have even been known to charge at safari cars, so always be aware, and have an escape route handy.
If you’ve ignored all warnings have found yourself face-to-face with a buffalo, first of all, why? Second, there may not be much you can do.
One guide says that if they do charge you, lie on the ground or run away. This same guide says if the buffalo sees you climb a tree, they will wait for you.
Can Cape Buffalo Turn Left?
An interesting traditional belief is brought out by another guide. He explained that in Botswana, it’s believed that when a buffalo is running at you, they can’t turn left.
It may be because they dip their horns down and to the right when charging. So, if facing a charging buffalo, try to turn to the creature’s left. You MIGHT (and that’s a big MIGHT) have a chance of surviving.
As African buffalo travel in herds, there is also a danger of them stampeding.
Whatever the case, please just stay away from African buffalo. They should be viewed and enjoyed from a distance for the safety of everyone involved.
Learn more: 13 Fastest Animals in Africa
What are some other fast animals? Here are the 30 Fastest Animals in the World: Land, Air, Water
Learn about the differences between buffalo vs bison.
Have you ever encountered an African buffalo (from a safe distance, of course)? Do you have any advice on what to do if one charges you? Was there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
- About the Author
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Hello, I’m Joshua Diegor. My love for travel began I was 18 when I went with some friends to New York City. All in all, I’ve traveled to 6 continents and 14 countries.
I’m a regular contributor to Storyteller Travel.
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[…] example, for this post about the speed of an African buffalo, I confirmed the speed on nature.ca, an authoritative site by the Canadian Museum of […]