The African buffalo is one of the most successful grazers in Africa. It lives in savannas, swamps, and floodplains, as well as mopane grasslands, and the forests of the major mountains of Africa. This buffalo prefers a habitat with dense covers, such as reeds and thickets, but can also be found in open woodland. While not particularly demanding regarding habitat, they require water daily, so they depend on perennial water sources. Like the plains zebra, the buffalo can live on tall, coarse grasses. Herds of buffalo mow down grasses and make way for more selective grazers. When feeding, the buffalo makes use of its tongue and wide incisor row to eat grass more quickly than most other African herbivores. Buffaloes do not stay on trampled or depleted areas for long.

Other than humans, African buffaloes have few predators and are capable of defending themselves against (and killing) lions. Lions kill and eat buffaloes regularly, and in some regions, the buffaloes are the lions’ primary prey. It often takes several lions to bring down a single adult buffalo, and the entire pride may join in the hunt. However, several incidents have been reported in which lone adult male lions have successfully brought down adult buffaloes. The average-sized crocodile typically attacks only old solitary animals and young calves, though they can kill healthy adults. Exceptionally large, old male Nile crocodiles may become semi-habitual predators of buffaloes. The cheetah, leopard, African wild dog and spotted hyena are normally a threat only to newborn calves, though larger clans of spotted hyenas have been recorded killing cows (mainly pregnant ones) and, on rare occasions, full-grown bulls. Large packs of African wild dogs have also been observed to not only hunt the calves, but even healthy full-grown cows, and on rare occasions, full-grown bulls, too.

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