I have never really ever been a fan of the buffalo. The animal merely resembles a large cow and never really ever witnessing its supposedly dangerous nature makes it difficult to appreciate why this bovine makes up part of the Big 5. As a ranger you hear stories; stories of how lone buffalo should always be avoided on trail and how of the Big 5 they are probably THE most dangerous to hunt due to their obstinate and head strong nature. I have seen many buffalo in my time as a guide, lone bulls laying casually in mud wallows and large herds that stare at you until you make a sudden movement and poof, scattered. And in my two years of guiding and an estimated 4200 hours of driving around the bush, never have I seen this “aggressive” nature, until a week ago.
Our drive began as usual looping along winding roads and checking all the usual spots for those more interesting animals; we were actually on the search for our male lion who we had missed the evening before by the skin of our teeth as he had been laying on the roadside with another vehicle and out of the blue bolted into the long reeds in chase of what can now be assumed was a leopard… but that’s a story for another day. It was the last drive for my guests who had actually seen everything but our lion and pressure was starting to build as he was missing from all his favourite hiding places. As time began to run out, I decided to check one last road, a road we barely ever drive because it really isn’t a road, but options were running out. As we bumped and wobbled along the river’s edge over boulders and through beach sand, a loud crash was heard nearby. “An elephant?” was the first thought to come to mind… not really a road I wanted to bump into a grumpy elephant on as it is impossible to turn around. We edged closer to where the sound had irrupted and as if it had been shot out of a cannon, a one ton male buffalo came flying out from the reeds, followed by another head on. The two bulls were in the middle of a brawl clashing horns as though thunder were hitting the ground. One bull was clearly winning as it jostled and hooked the other under the front limb and lifted him off his feet. The smaller of the two had one horn missing, which was working to his disadvantage and both his eyes were swollen to the size of tennis balls.
Five, ten, fifteen minutes later and the weaker bull started to tire. His breath was heavy and his head kept falling to the ground as he continued to defend himself from further lashings. Eventually he looked up for just a moment and in a second both bulls sped towards the vehicle with me and the guests inside. I thought, “this is it, this is what everyone has told me about buffalo the whole time and now my vehicle is about to be rammed by two angry bulls.” At the last second I shouted “HEY!!!” and the first bull took a sharp turn followed closely by the second as he chased his opponent down river and into the water. The fight was finally over.
I felt my heart pounding on the inside of my rib cage and turn to face my guests who were like wise sitting in silence and awe of what had just happened. My opinion of the boring old cow-like animals will never be the same as I now too can share stories of how dangerous the buffalo is.
By Ranger Simone