Buffalo Senses

Sense of Smell

©Roger de la Harpe
Buffalo have excellent senses. Although sight and hearing are less well developed, their sense of smell is acute and they use it to find food or to detect predators. Buffalo are inquisitive and will approach sources of interest with their noses outstretched to pick up olfactory clues as to the object’s identity. Buffalo also use smell to communicate socially. It is believed that the coordination of the numerous members within a herd is controlled by olfactory cues that afford recognition of individuals and allow the grouping of animals into sub-herds. In this regard vocal communication is also significant. Buffalo emanate cow-like bellows continuously as they move to maintain contact.

Heat Sensitive

©Roger de la Harpe
Buffalo are very heat sensitive. To avoid excessive exposure to hot temperatures, buffalo will graze early in the morning or late afternoon and will often feed through the cooler night during hotter parts of the year. As soon as daytime temperatures rise too high, buffalo will move into the shade to rest and chew the cud (an important process to digest the coarse grass material they ingest). They also rest for parts of the night during which time they lie touching one another.

Sometimes buffalo will wallow in mud to keep themselves cool during the hottest part of the day. This is however an activity mostly practiced by the bulls as it also plays a role in dominance displays. Bulls will roll in the mud or toss mud with their horns to denote their social status. Access to limited wallows depends on an individual’s rank in the herd hierarchy of which some bulls dominate others and all bulls are superior to cows.

By Megan Emmett