The African buffalo is a very robust species. Its shoulder height can range from 1 to 1.7 m and its head-and-body length can range from 1.7 to 3.4 m. Compared with other large bovids, it has a long but stocky body (the body length can exceed the wild water buffalo, which is rather heavier and taller) and short but thickset legs, resulting in a relatively short standing height. The tail can range from 70 to 110 cm long. Savannah-type buffaloes weigh 500 to 900 kg with males normally larger than females, reaching the upper weight range. In comparison, forest-type buffaloes, at 250 to 450 kg are only half that size. Its head is carried low; its top is located below the backline. The front hooves of the buffalo are wider than the rear, which is associated with the need to support the weight of the front part of the body, which is heavier and more powerful than the back.
Savannah-type buffaloes have black or dark brown coats with age. Old bulls have whitish circles around their eyes. Females tend to have more-reddish coats. Forest-type buffaloes are reddish brown in colour with horns that curve back and slightly up. Calves of both types have red coats.
The horns of African buffalo are very peculiar. A characteristic feature of them is the adult bull’s horns have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as a “boss’, which can not always be penetrated even by a rifle bullet. From the base, the horns diverge, then bend down, and then smoothly curve upwards and outwards. The distance between the ends of the horns of large bulls is more than a metre. The young buffalo horn boss forms fully only upon reaching the age of five to six years. In cows, the horns are, on average, 10–20% smaller, and the boss is less prominent. Forest buffalo horns are much smaller and weaker than those of the savannah buffaloes and are almost never fused. They rarely reach a length of even 40 centimetres.
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