The Cape Buffalo looks mean. Its wide horns form a boss as they meet in the middle on the forehead. Beetle-browed, they resemble Martin Johnson, the Leicester Tigers and England rugby player. I once saw him shopping in Asda – MJ, not the buffalo – and you could shelter from the rain under his superciliary ridges.
This bone, in front of the brain, is so dense that only special bullets can penetrate it. In order to carry the heavy weight, the front feet are broader than the back feet.
It looks even more out of proportion as the body seems too long for it. A bit like a stretched limo. With horns. Big males (kakuri) can weigh 900kg when fully mature. Unlike water buffaloes in India and South East Asia, the Cape Buffalo has never been domesticated.
As the water sources in the hills are drying up, buffalo herds move down into the valley at this time of year to drink. The smaller herds coalesce into a massive herd with up to 500 individuals, moving en masse towards the Wafwa or other ox bow lakes in the Park. If they cross the dirt road in front of me, the dust kicked up makes it difficult to see them. As it clears, I can feel their eyes upon me as they turn to inspect the car.
There is not much safety in numbers. Buffalo are lions’ favourite food, providing enough nourishment to satisfy a large pride, like the Mwamba, for three days. Sometimes the lions will capture a buffalo calf, but let it cry out to attract the mother to her doom. Buffaloes are powerful creatures, but they lack manoeuvrability and stamina. Once they are tired, the lions can attack with impunity, often eating chunks out of the buffalo while it is still alive and standing.
Hunters find buffaloes wily prey. They have a reputation of being very aggressive when wounded and will turn on their pursuers, sometimes doubling back in a wide circle to attack the hunters from behind.