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Any of several cud-chewing mammals of the family Bovidae (order Artiodactyla). The name is often applied to the bison (q.v.) of North America. The Indian buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), also called water buffalo and carabao, roams wild in southeastern Asia and is kept as a domestic animal; it is the principal draft animal in the rice-growing countries of Southeast Asia. A massively built, ox-like animal, it is dull black with a sparse coat and large horns that are triangular in cross section. It stands 1.5 m or more at the shoulder and weighs up to 800 kg. The horns, which together may be more than 1.2 m long, curve outward and backward. The horns of the cow are more slender than those of the bull.
In the wild, the Indian buffalo lives in herds, most often in swampland and grass jungle. Bold and even savage, it will often charge intruders. In summer, the female bears one or two calves, 10 months after conception. Domestic races of the Indian buffalo are kept mainly as draft animals and for milk, butter, and hides. The Cape, or African, buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a similar massive, black, sparsely haired animal standing up to 1.5 m at the shoulder; bulls weigh up to about 900 kg. Its heavy horns typically curve downward, then up and inward; at their bases, they form large bosses. A subspecies of Cape buffalo found in dense West African forests is smaller, reddish brown, and has shorter horns.
Formerly found over all of Africa south of the Sahara, the Cape buffalo has been greatly reduced in numbers by disease and hunting. It is a gregarious animal of open or scrub-covered plains and open forests. The cow bears a single young after about 11 months' gestation. When wounded, the Cape buffalo is regarded as one of the most dangerous animals to man. It has never been domesticated. ♣
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