Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between buffalo and water buffalo:


  • Buffalo: True buffalo (also called Cape buffalo) are native to Africa and prefer grasslands, savannas, and woodlands with access to water.
  • Water Buffalo: Water buffalo, as the name suggests, are more aquatic and favor wetland habitats like swamps, marshes, and floodplains in parts of Asia (primarily) and some regions of Africa, Europe, and North America (introduced).


  • Buffalo: Cape buffalo are stocky animals with large, curved horns that fuse at the base in both males and females (although the horns of females are smaller). They have a short, dark brown coat.
  • Water Buffalo: Water buffalo are larger and more robust than Cape buffalo. They have long, sweeping horns that curve upwards and backwards, primarily present on males. Their coat color can vary depending on the subspecies, but it’s typically black, gray, or brown.


  • Buffalo: Cape buffalo are known for their aggressive nature and live in herds dominated by females. They are grazers and spend a significant portion of their day searching for food.
  • Water Buffalo: Water buffalo are more semi-aquatic and spend a lot of time wallowing in mud and water to cool down and avoid insects. They are also grazers but tend to be less social than Cape buffalo.


  • Buffalo: Cape buffalo have not been domesticated and are generally considered very dangerous to humans.
  • Water Buffalo: Water buffalo have been domesticated for centuries and are an important source of milk, meat, and labor in many parts of Asia.

Here’s a table summarizing the key points:

FeatureBuffalo (Cape Buffalo)Water Buffalo
HabitatAfrican grasslands, savannas, woodlandsAsian wetlands (swamps, marshes), some parts of Africa, Europe, North America (introduced)
AppearanceStocky build, short dark brown coat, fused horns at the base (both sexes)Larger, robust build, long, sweeping horns (mainly males), coat color varies (black, gray, brown)
BehaviorGrazers, live in female-dominated herds, known for aggressionGrazers, semi-aquatic, wallow in mud and water, less social
DomesticationNot domesticatedDomesticated (milk, meat, labor)

By understanding these differences, you can easily distinguish between buffalo and water buffalo.