How Many Buffalo Are There? The Latest Statistics For You

Abhijeet Modi
Oct 11, 2023 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
African Buffalo standing on the river bank.

Buffalo is considered a sacred animal by many people all over the world, especially Indians and people from Lakota, United States.

Despite this being the case buffalos are one of the animals that are over-exploited for their meat. The milk production has also put them through a very tough process. Millions of buffalos have gone extinct because of this.

Though the number of buffaloes has been seeing a rise, many native buffalo herds were and still are on the verge of extinction. The world saw a maximum decrease in the population at the beginning of the 20th century when a North American buffalo species that freely roamed in the plains and mountains were slaughtered.

These buffaloes were killed on a daily basis.

And by the end of a decade, millions of buffalo were killed.

After a series of conservation plans, the numbers have seen an increase. One of the common fallacies about buffalos is that allowing children to view them on a daily basis can help to resurrect aspects of the culture.

Did you know, of all the herd of buffaloes found grazing in public lands and plains the ones in the Yellowstone national park are the only free roaming wild population of the U.S? We have put together a bunch of informative and fun facts on where buffalos roamed, their population size, habitat and kinds.

Keep reading to know more and do check out our other articles on how many legs do spiders have and how many legs do ants have once you have finished this article.

How many kinds of buffalo are there?

There were 915,275 thousand heads in 2020. All buffaloes belong to the Bovidae family of 10 native buffaloes. The buffaloes are broadly classified into three types: water buffalo, cape buffalo, and American buffalo. The American buffalo is still not accepted as a type by many people.

Water Buffalo: there are 74 breeds of domestic water buffalo. Only a few wild buffalo breeds exist.

There are approximately 4,000 wild water buffaloes. The main reason for the decline of wild water buffaloes interbreeding with other domestic, feral, and hybrid water buffalo. Ona the whole there are 130 million water buffaloes.

Initially, they were present in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia and used to roam in a herd in the plains. Now the range has extended and they are present in Europe, some parts of Africa north and south America.

Cape buffalo: the cape buffalo is also known as African Buffalo and black death. The latter is a name given as they are one of the most terrifying buffalo species. They are very strong and aggressive.

They practically charge at anyone for no reason at all. Several hunters fall victim to the attacks. Nearly 200 people are killed every year.

There are around 900,000 cape buffalo animals. The majority of the population is found in places in herds like Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia with Tanzania having the most cape buffaloes. There are four subspecies, the forest buffalo, West African savanna buffalo, Central African buffalo, and southern savanna buffalo.

These buffaloes form large herds which can have as many as 100 members. The herds are formed based on fighting skills. Water buffalo and capes buffalo are said to have parted ways with bison and yaks a few million years ago.

American buffalo: categorising them as one of the main buffaloes has created a lot of controversies. The American buffalo is actually a bison. People who sighted these bison at the beginning called them buffaloes as they looked like buffaloes. It is called American bison by a large population.

Fun fact: the bison herd at the yellow nation park is the only continuous bison herd in the world.

How many buffalo are left in the world?

Currently, there are 207 million buffalos in the world. There has been a tremendous increase in the population since the 1800s. There was a mass killing during the 1800s with almost 5000 buffaloes killed every day. Around 40 million buffaloes were killed in a span of 50 years. The population increased to 153 million at the beginning

In some of the major places like India, where people are most dependant on meat and dairy production, the buffalo population has increased. India's buffalo population in the year 1991 was 84.2 million.

In 2017 the population was 113.3 million. In Pakistan, the population has increased by 57 million since 1991.

Contrary to this many regions in Asia have also had a tremendous decrease. Thailand and Sri Lanka have faced a huge decrease in the last 2 decades. The growth percent has gone down by 44.67 and 57.04 percent respectively.

Outside Asia, in other regions like New York, Montana, South Dakota, north and south America the population has been seeing a rise. The North American buffalo was almost extinct and has now been brought back to life.

Close up of Indian buffalo.

How are buffalo different from bison?

Bison and buffalo belong to the same family, Bovidae. This does not make them the same animal. They are distinct animals just like others of the family such as sheep, muskoxen, goats. They are not even closely related. Some of the major differences are as follows.

Hump: The bison have a hump on the shoulder. The hump is made of muscles. It comes in handy in the winters when it snowing.

The hump allows the head to move smoothly enabling it to plow snow. This is a major difference between a bison and a buffalo. A buffalo does not have a hump.

The presence of this muscle in a bison makes its body look disproportionate. The head is large, making the rear parts look smaller. in the case of a buffalo, the head is relatively small and apt for the overall body size, which makes them look more symmetrical.

Horn: The difference in the horn size between a buffalo and bison is very obvious. Buffalos have larger horns than bison, the shape also varies.

In cape buffalos the horns start from the middle of the head, looking like a center parted hairstyle that expands sideways and is curved at the end. Their horns can reach up to 7 ft (2.1 m). This can differ between cows and bulls.

In the case of a water buffalo, the horn is crescent shaped and curved at the end. It is similar to the horns of a cape buffalo but not well curved. The horns of both the bulls and cows can reach up to 6 ft (1.8 m).

Bison have short and curved horns that start from the side of the head. It is very small when compared to a buffalo and only grows up to 2ft (0.6 m).

Hair: Buffalos have a very thin layer of hair on their body. Since a lot of buffalos are found in areas with hot climates the thin layer of hair is much suitable.

Contrary to this, bison have thick layers of hair which provides insulation and acts as a protective layer against the harsh winters. They shed the layers of hair depending on the climatic conditions whereas a buffalo does not shed its hair.

Beard: Bison have unkempt beards and very long mustaches. Buffalos look like they are going for an interview. They have short beards and have a barely visible mustache.

Size: Bison are huge. Bison are very large and can grow up to 12 ft(3.6 m). They have a large head and thick legs. Bison are also heavy and can weigh up to 2200 lb (997 kg).

Buffalos on the other hand are slightly smaller but heavy still. The cape buffalo is smaller in size. The size can be around 51-59 in (130-150 cm) and weigh around 1984 lbs(900 kg).

Are American buffalo extinct?

The free roaming buffaloes on the plains and mountains. The native American tribes were contingent on the meat and milk supply from buffalos.

The slaughter was done to destroy the basic source of food of the native Americans. This species, which roamed in almost all parts of North America was pushed to near extinction.

Apart from this, the American buffalo also known as the American bison was also killed for its hide by the American tribes. The introduction of guns and other equipment made this much easier.

People decided to kill almost all of the native American buffalos. The American buffalo population was around 30 million before hunters started hunting them.

The even worse part was when the buffalos had nowhere to go as the people from the middle creek prevented them from spending the winter in the river and mountain range. The slaughter and hunting in the west branch valley made sure that this animal had nowhere to go.

Millions of buffaloes had to hide in an isolated river and mountain range with scarce resources. Winter during this time was one of the harshest winters and many animals died out of starvation.

Ranchers drove them away and started occupying their habitats. There was rising concern about a disease spreading among these buffalos. The risks were exaggerated which resulted in hunting and killing them even faster than before.

Along with mass killings, this also had a negative impact on the population count of this species. In the 20th century, there were just 23 American buffalos all of which were in the Yellowstone national park.

It was nearly extinct. The need for immediate conservation resulted in the government passing a law.

The law made it illegal to hunt any buffalo from the Yellowstone national park. Following this, a conservation plan allocated a hefty amount in rearing 21 buffalos from a private wild herd.

This was taken to Yellowstone park. With an ample amount of food and proper care, this species which was close to extinction slowly saw a rise in its population.

Years later, as of 2017, the population was 500,000 along with the 5,000 buffalos present in the Yellowstone. Several plans have been made for the reintroduction of wild bison in the mountains and great plains of the U.S. and Canada.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how many buffalo are there then why not take a look at how many teeth do sharks have, or how many teeth do snails have facts?

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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