|The Water Buffalo or domestic Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) is a large bovine animal, frequently used as livestock in Asia, and also widely in South America, southern Europe, north Africa and elsewhere. In 2000, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that there were approximately 158 million water buffalo in the world and that 97% of them (approximately 153 million animals) were in Asia.
There are established feral populations in northern Australia but the dwindling true wild populations are thought to survive in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Thailand. All the domestic varieties and breeds descend from one common ancestor, the Wild Water Buffalo, which is now an endangered species.
Buffalo are used as draft, meat and dairy animals. Their dung is used as a fertilizer and as a fuel when dried. In Chonburi, Thailand, and in South Malabar Region in Kerala, India, there are annual water buffalo races. A few have also found use as pack animals carrying loads even for special forces.
American bison are known as buffalo in parts of North America, but not normally in other usages; bison are more closely related to cattle, gaur, banteng, and yaks than to Asian buffalo. The water buffalo genus includes water buffalo, tamaraw and anoasall Asian species. The ancestry of the African buffalo is unclear, but it is not believed to be closely related to the water buffalo.
True wild water buffalo are thought to survive in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Thailand.
The IUCN Red List of threatened species classifies wild water buffalo (Bubalis arnee)  as an Endangered species. The total number of wild water buffalo left is thought to be less than 4,000, which suggests that the number of mature individuals will be less than 2,500, and an estimated continuing decline of at least 20% within 14 years (ca. 2 generations) and at least 50% within 21 years seems likely given the severity of the threats, especially hybridization with the abundant domestic Asian water buffalo leading to genetic pollution.
Adult Water Buffalo range in size from 400 to 900 kg (880 to 2,000 lb) for the domestic breeds, while the wild animals are nearly 3 m (9.8 ft) long and 2 m (6.6 ft) tall, weighing up to 1,200 kg (2,600 lb); females are about two-thirds this size.
River buffalo are usually black and have long curled horns, whereas swamp buffalo can be black or white, or both, with gently curved horns.The largest recorded horns are just under 2 metres long.
There are differences between swamp buffalo and river buffalo. Swamp buffalo have swept back horns and are native to the eastern half of Asia from India to Taiwan. All are similar in general appearance. River buffalo generally have curved horns and are native to the western half of Asia.
The rumen (the first chamber of the digestive system of a ruminant) of the Water Buffalo has important differences to that of other ruminants. It consists of essential microorganisms; namely bacteria, protozoa and fungi which digest the food to produce fermentation end-products via anaerobic fermentation or Embden-Myerhof pathway.
The Water Buffalo rumen has been found to contain a larger population of bacteria particularly the cellulolytic bacteria, lower protozoa and higher fungi zoospores. In addition, higher rumen ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) and higher pH have been found as compared to those in cattle
The classification of the water buffalo is uncertain. Some authorities list a single species, Bubalus bubalis with three subspecies, the river buffalo (B. bubalis bubalis) of South Asia, the carabao or swamp buffalo (B. bubalis carabanesis) of the Philippines and Southeast Asia, and the arni, or wild water buffalo (B. bubalis arnee). Others regard these as closely-related but separate species.
The swamp buffalo is primarily found in the eastern half of Asia and has 48 chromosomes. The river buffalo is mostly found in the western half of Asia (and in Europe and Africa), and has 50 chromosomes. The two types do not readily interbreed, but fertile offspring can occur. Buffalo-cattle hybrids have not been observed to occur, and the embryos of such hybrids do not reach maturity in laboratory experiments.
Geologically speaking, the Bovidae is much recent group as compared to Cervidae because their members are untraceable in the layers of the earth. The fossil forms of the buffalo provide a definite link between the Indian type and their present extreme representatives and their extinct allies. All Asiatic buffaloes seem to form a closely allied group of species which represent more or less a passage from one variety to another.
Type Locality: “Habitat in Asia, cultus in Italia”. Restricted by Thomas (1911a:154) to Italy, Rome, but Linnaeus’ (1758) comment indicates Asia (India?).
Distribution: Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India (survives in Assam and Orissa), Nepal, N Thailand, Vietnam, and possibly at least formerly in Laos; domesticated in N Africa, S Europe, and even England, east to Indonesia and in E South America; supposedly feral populations in Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Philippines and other parts of SE Asia; feral populations resulting from introductions in New Britain and New Ireland (Bismarck Arch., Papua New Guinea), and Australia. Status: CITES Appendix III (Nepal) as B. arnee (excludes domesticated forms – but see comments below; IUCN Endangered
Average lifespan in captivity: up to 25 years
Water Buffalo ploughing rice fields in Java,Indonesia
Asia is the native home of the water buffalo, with 95% of the world population of water buffalo, with about half of the total in India. Many Asian countries depend on the water buffalo as its primary bovine species. It is valuable for its meat and milk as well as the labour it performs. As of 1992 the Asian population was estimated at 141 million. The fat content of buffalo milk is the highest amongst farm animals and the butterfat is a major source of ghee in some Asian countries. Its success in Asia is evident by its extensive range. Both variants occur in Asia. River buffalo are found in elevations of 2,800 m in Nepal, and swamp buffalo are found throughout the lowland tropics. Part of their success is due to their ability to thrive on poor foodstuffs and yet be valuable economically. Moreover they are much better suited to plough the muddy paddy fields as they are better adapted than common cattle (Bos taurus) to move in swamps.