Cape Buffalo

This is an old webpage carried forward to our new site. Please note that some of the information might be out of date and we probably have newer footage.

Cape Buffalo

The cape buffalo, also known as the African or water buffalo, is one of Africa’s “Big 5” wildlife species and a favorite of tourists. (The animals do go to water frequently, but the name is probably a misnomer as they only got to water holes to drink, take a mudbath, and then leave.) They are primarily found in savanna type country where there is a mixture of open grasslands and shrubby areas; however, some are also found in more forested areas in Africa. Those found in forest habitats tend to be only about half as big as those found in the savannah habitats. African cape buffalo are a common prey item of lions; however, it requires a large pride of lions and/or a weak, injured, or young cape buffalo before the lions will attempt to take one on. As lions typically hunt at night filming a predation event is extremely difficult and requires huge amounts of time.

Cape buffalo, like most members of the bovine family, travel in large herds. They are primarily grazers but will browse on leaves and woody vegetation. Like the North American buffalo, the herds of cape buffalo are important in terms of creating and maintaining grassland diversity through their grazing and herding behaviors. The herd is very protective of the calves. When a predator comes close the entire herd will try to defend the young using a mobbing behavior to drive off the predators. Because of the unpredictable and aggressive nature of the African cape buffalo the species was never domesticated like other buffalo lines.

Filming Cape Buffalo Stock Footage

The first rule of filming cape buffalo is to be cautious and be safe. Cape buffalo are notoriously dangerous and one of Africa’s Big Five (i.e., 5 dangerous animals to hunt). The large beast really fear no one, especially the bulls. Even a pride of lions is reluctant to take on a mature bull. The animals are known for their nasty disposition and can be unpredictable. In many preserves and parks, especially those in South Africa, one is limited to staying within a vehicle. That is partly for the sake of the animals, but primarily for the safety of the visitors. Of course filming from within a car presents several problems, one of the more significant being how to use a tripod head for smooth movement. There’s no easy solution or answer here as many people have designed their own contraptions (I have yet to see a good off-the-shelf tripod head/mount system for filming from a car). I have on occassions been able to use a tripod by wedging 2 legs between the seat and the car door; this primarily works in vans and larger trucks and SUVs. You will want a bowl mount so you can quickly level the head. If you don’t have a tripod head a solution is to use a bean bag and don’t pan at all, or if you do try and do it smoothly and at a wide angle.