Episode 96 – Cape Buffalo: Revenge on the Range

“And today we are talking about beefiest boys in the bovine brotherhood. But bore on that later.”

Clutching his rifle in his hand, veteran British big game hunter Owain Lewis made his way through the dense brush of Zimbabwe, carefully tracking an injured cape buffalo that had been shot three days earlier by an American visiting hunter who had failed to finish it off. With the task now falling to him and his hunting apprentice, it all comes down to a game of cat and mouse. But who’s the cat, and who’s the mouse? We’ll find out here in LDT.


  • The cape buffalo is a large thick bodied bovine with black curved horns.
  • Ther look like a typical brown cow with short hair.
  • The tops of their skulled are a thick keratin that curve downward and then back up into horns like a composite bow.
  • Their heads hang lower than their backs, unlike deer and horses which carrier there heads high.
  • Males have brown to black coats whereas females may have more red in their coats.
  • Cape buffalos are native to African forests and plains. The caffer subspecies is the most familiar and live on the savannah but there’s also forest subspecies like nanus which is smaller and has more reddish fur.

Measure Up

Welcome to Measure Up, leading candidate for best part of the show, a title to be officially determined by you on December 3rd on Twitter and Facebook. This is the part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We have no new intros this week, so that means I get to play an animal sound and Carlos will guess what it is! Answer: Koala

Shoulder height

  • 1.0 to 1.7 m (3.3 to 5.6 ft)
  • 5.6 feet
  • How many buffalos go into the height of the tallest building in Africa (234 metres (770 ft)), which is the Leonardo in Sandton, South Africa?
  • Hint: The building was started in November 2015 and officially became the tallest building in April of this year.
  • Answer: 137.5


  • 500 to 1,000 kg (1,100 to 2,200 lb)
  • 2,200 lbs
  • How many of the world’s largest buffalo wing (1,037 lbs) in Madeira Beach, FL go into a cape buffalo?
  • Hint: It’s not a real chicken wing. It’s a drumstick replica that hangs from a photo op sign at a dockside Hooters. A sign warns patrons not to climb on the wing in nine languages.
  • Answer: 2.1

Fast facts

  • They have fairly typical herd hierarchies with dominant males controlling high-born females and their offspring.
  • The core herd is surrounded by subherds which are composed of high ranking males and females, subordinate males, and old or injured adults. 
  • Young males stay away from the dominant male.
  • Males spar in friendly competitions where they might rub their faces together and practice fighting.
  • Real fights are rare but violent and bloody. 
  • They are grazers and eat mostly grass in swamps and floodplains.
  • They drink water every day which puts them in danger of crocodile predation.
  • Other than crocodiles, they are sometimes hunted by lions, but they can defend themselves and aren’t easy prey.
  • They may even defend each other and present a united front against predators. 
  • However, lions can pick of injured, old, and sick animals. 
  • But they are also capable of engaging in the democratic process.
    • Female buffaloes move together.
    • This helps them avoid being picked off by predators, and it helps them keep calves safe.
    • But how do they decide where to go?
    • They will spend an hour, shuffling around, laying down, and standing back up again.
    • The direction they face when lying down is there vote.
    • Once they decide, they set out.
    • Early poles show that forest buffaloes point at Critter Groups while plains buffloes face snoutward at Measure Up.

Major Fact: Dangerous Hunting

  • Cape buffalo are a member of the big five: the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. 
    • Elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and cape buffalo
    • South African currency bills have pictures of these animals
  • But there are lots of large herbivores in Africa (hippo, wildebeest, elands, etc.), what makes cape buffalo so dangerous?
  • These mud boys take revenge.
  • Because they’re so big and muscular, one shot is not likely to take down one of these buffalo soldiers, regardless of the calibur (according to big game hunting experts). So it’s probably going to run away after getting hit.
  • Or so it wants you to think. It will remember the direction where it heard the shot and seemingly run off in a random direction.
  • What it’s actually doing is circling back around on its own trail to get sweet sweet revenge.
  • It makes its way behind the hunter and actually will wait behind a bush or a rock, using camouflage as best it can until the hunter is within range—then it charges. 
  • With an impenetrable shield on its head and sharp horns, a 2,000lb animal ambushing you at 35 mph from some nearby bushes is about all it takes to kill a human.
  • There’s a gripping story called “No One Survives a Cape Buffalo Attack” where some high schoolers managed to get the attention of a cape buffalo and one of them barely escaped with his life—he didn’t escape with his pants though.
  • Locals will say that the cape buffalo is responsible for the most human deaths of any animal in Africa. It’s almost certainly the animal responsible for the most hunter casualties.

**So watch your back, let your aim be true, and ba ram you like the cape buffalo in LDT.

Outro:Hey everyone. We need measure up intros! It really makes our day to see that we’ve received a new measure up from a fan of the show. Plus, you get to hear yourself on the airwaves, so to speak. Just say, sing, whisper, scream, or chitter the words “measure up” into your phone’s recording app and email that bad boy to ldtaxonoy@gmail.com. Also, don’t forget to vote for your favorite podcast segment on December 3rd. We’ll finally know whether the amazing and fun Critter Groups or the tedious and bad Measure Up is more beloved. You can vote on Facebook and/or Twitter. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week!