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A buffalo can run faster than you, so watch out when on safari. They are aggressive and powerful, charging at speeds of up to 56 km/h (35 mph).

Here is the full story on how fast a buffalo can run.

From Zero to 56 km/h in a Few Seconds

African buffalo in running motion

Cape buffalo are dangerous because they don’t provide any warning. One minute they are chewing, perhaps huffing and puffing in a slight show of discontent.

The next moment they are running at 56 km/h. And not just one. A whole herd of buffalo is on the move. Like most other African animals they are capable of an astonishing change of speed. From a standing start they can hit 50 km/h within just two to three seconds.

A single buffalo bull can chase away an entire lion pride. To put it into perspective, 56 km/h is the top speed of a galloping race horse.

They can’t maintain this speed for very long though. Most people on safari witness buffalo moving at a slower pace, more like a cantering horse.

Buffalo reportedly kill more hunters and poachers than any other animal in Africa. There are many stories of them setting ambushes and attacking hunters from behind. Go buffalo! 🙂

They don’t forgive either. Buffalo herds are known to kill lion cubs as part of punishment for the pride attacking their herd!

In North America there is a different species of buffalo, known as the bison. The top speed of a bison is similar, with healthy mature adults observed hitting speeds of 55 km/h. European cow bulls can also run at this top speed.

How Can Buffalo Run So Fast?

Two buffalo at sunset in Northern Namibia

These are heavy animals. Weighing up to 900 kg (almost 2000 lbs) they stand between 1.3 – 1.7 metres at the shoulder. Their horns are a metre across with a fused bone shield covering their forehead.

They reach maturity at seven years old and we can assume that it is only at this age that they are able to hit such impressive speeds. Small calves are yet to develop the strength to sprint so fast.

Cape buffalo have incredibly powerful leg muscles that propel them across the ground. They need this speed to aid their defence against predators. Big cats rarely attack mature buffalo but young calves are a prime target. The best form of buffalo defence is attack, with the herds often charging at their predators.

It’s believed that Cape buffalo are four times stronger than domestic ox, which partially explains how a single buffalo is capable of tossing over a safari vehicle.

Buffalo are faster than hippos (30 km/h) and elephants (40 km/h), and can hit the same speed as another of the giants – rhinos.

How Fast Can Buffalo Swim?

Cape buffalo are adept swimmers and will commonly cross water to reach better grazing grounds.

Water is also used as a defence when a buffalo is being attacked. Check out this video and watch a buffalo chasing lions. Just wait to see what happens at the end.

Did You Encounter a Sprinting Buffalo?

Have you watched buffalo run? Were they sprinting at top speed? Perhaps even knocking over some lions?

If not then are you planning an African safari? Check out our safari guide and see how to connect with your wild side.

Two buffalo running "into" the sunset