Bubalina is a subtribe of wild cattle that includes the various species of true buffalo. Species include the African buffalo, the anoas, and the wild water buffalo (including the domesticated variant water buffalo). Currently, buffalos can be found naturally in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and domestic and feral populations have been introduced to Europe, the Americas, and Australia.[2] In addition to the living species, bubalinans have an extensive fossil record where remains have been found in much of Afro-Eurasia.[3]

Temporal range: Late Miocene - present, 13.7–0 Ma [1]
Feral buffaloes AJTJohnsingh.jpg
Feral water buffalo
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Bovinae
Tribe: Bovini
Subtribe: Bubalina
Rütimeyer, 1865
Type species
Bubalus bubalis
  • Buffelinae (Knottnerus-Meyer, 1907)
  • Syncerina (Pilgrim, 1939)

Despite being sometimes referred to as buffaloes, bison are not members of the Bubalina, but are instead classified in the subtribe Bovina.


Placement within BoviniEdit



(Bubalus, Syncerus)

(Bison, Bos)

Phylogenetic relationships of extant genera of the tribe Bovini (Hassanin et al., 2013)[4]

The majority of phylogenetic work based on ribosomal DNA, chromosomal analysis, autosomal introns and mitochondrial DNA has recovered three distinctive subtribes of Bovini: Pseudorygina (represent solely by the saola), Bubalina, and Bovina (which today are represented by the genera Bison and Bos).[4][5][6][7] One cytogenetic analysis concerning the phylogenetic position on the saola suggests the species could be related to buffalo.[8] This relationship has not, however, been supported by most phylogenetic work concerning Bovini.[4][7][9]

Genera and speciesEdit


There are currently two recognized extant genera of bubalinans – the African Syncerus and the Asiatic Bubalus.[1][5][9][2] Whilst the majority of molecular and morphological work strongly supports the recognition of these two genera as being sister taxa,[5][10] since 2011 new uncertainty over the number of species that should be recognized has been introduced.[9][2] In the 'traditional' classification given by Peter Grubb in the 2005 third edition of the widely used taxonomic reference work Mammal Species of the World the following six species are recognized,[11] with the African buffalo split into five subspecies[12] based on differences in the horns and skin colouration.[9]

In 2011 Groves and Grubb recognised four of the subspecies of the African buffalo as independent species. These they argued, should be considered as separate species based on the phylogenetic species concept, which states that any population can be recognised as a species if a member is diagnosable as belonging to that population.[9] The African buffalo is noted to exhibit extreme morphological variability, and in the past a number of discreet species or subspecies have been named for specific geographic populations.[13] The bovid biologist Castelló adopted the Groves and Grubb taxonomic interpretation,[2] but others have expressed their concern that this taxonomic proposal needs more additional evidence before being adopted.[14]

Below is the listing of 'new' species recognized by Groves and Grubb (2011)[9] with vernacular names following Castelló (2016) from Bovids of the World:[2] Note other vernacular names have been used by others, and in practice all taxa are simply known as "Cape buffalo".

  • Syncerus nanus (Boddaert, 1785) – Forest buffalo
  • Syncerus brachyceros (Gray, 1837) – Lake Chad buffalo
  • Syncerus mathewsi (Lydekker, 1904) – Virunga buffalo
  • Syncerus caffer (Sparrman, 1779) – Cape buffalo

In fossil recordEdit

The fossil record of buffalos is extensive, with fossils found throughout Africa and Eurasia.[3] According to the fossil record and the molecular work, Bubalina and Bovina diverged from one and another from a common ancestor around 13.7 million years ago in the Late Miocene.[1][3][4] The Syncerus lineage and the Bubalus lineage diverged from each other in the Late Miocene, perhaps give or take between 8.2 and 9.1 million years ago.[1][3][4] This divergence corresponds to the time when the ancestor of Syncerus had arrived into Africa from Asia.[3][15]

Below is the list of a number of the described fossil species (listed alphabetically):

  • Subtribe Bubalina (Rütimeyer, 1865)
  • Hemibos acuticornis (Falconer & Gautley, 1868)
  • Hemibos antelopinus (Falconer & Gautley, 1868)
  • Hemibos galerianus (Petronio & Sardella, 1998)
  • Hemibos gracilis (Qiu, 2004)
  • Hemibos triquetricornis (Falconer, 1865)
  • Genus †Parabos (Arambourg & Piveteau, 1929)
  • Parabos cordieri (de Christol, 1832)
  • Parabos macedoniae (Arambourg & Piveteau, 1929)
  • Parabos soriae (Morales, 1984)
  • Proamphibos hasticornis (Pilgrim, 1939)
  • Proamphibos kashmiricus (Pilgrim, 1939)
  • Proamphibos lachrymans (Pilgrim, 1939)
  • Genus †Ugandax (Cooke & Coryndon, 1970)
  • Ugandax coryndonae (Gentry, 2006)
  • Ugandax demissum (Gentry, 1980)
  • Ugandax gautieri (Cooke & Coryndon, 1970)


  1. ^ a b c d Hassanin, Alexandre; Ropiquet, A. (2004). "Molecular phylogeny of the tribe Bovini (Bovidae, Bovinae) and the taxonomic status of the Kouprey, Bos sauveli Urbain 1937". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 33 (3): 896–907. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.08.009. PMID 15522811.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e Castelló, J.R. (2016). Bovids of the Word. Princeton University Press.
  3. ^ a b c d e Hassanin, Alexandre (January 2014). "Systematic and evolution of Bovini". In Melletti, D.R.; Burton, J. (eds.). Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour of Wild Cattle: Implications for Conservation. Cambridge University Press. pp. 7–21.
  4. ^ a b c d e Hassanin, A.; An, J.; Ropiquet, A.; Nguyen, T.T.; Couloux, A. (2013). "Combining multiple autosomal introns for studying shallow phylogeny and taxonomy of Laurasiatherian mammals: Application to the tribe Bovini (Cetartiodactyla, Bovidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 63 (3): 766–775. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.11.003. PMID 23159894.
  5. ^ a b c Tanaka, K.; Solis, C.D.; Masangkay, J.S.; Maeda, K.L.; Kawamoto, Y.; Namikawa, T. (1996). "Phylogenetic relationship among all living species of the genus Bubalus based on DNA sequences of the cytochrome b gene". Biochemical Genetics. 34 (11): 443–452. doi:10.1007/BF00570125. PMID 9126673. S2CID 22075565.
  6. ^ Hassanin, A.; Douzery, E. J. P. (1999). "Evolutionary affinities of the enigmatic saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) in the context of the molecular phylogeny of Bovidae". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 266 (1422): 893–900. doi:10.1098/rspb.1999.0720. PMC 1689916. PMID 10380679.
  7. ^ a b Bibi, F. (2013). "Phylogenetic relationships in the subfamily Bovinae (Mammalia: Artiodactyla) based on ribosomal DNA". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 13 (166): 166. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-166. PMC 3751017. PMID 23927069.
  8. ^ Nguyen, T.T.; Aniskin, V.M.; Gerbault-Seureau, M.; Planton, J.P.; Renard, B.X.; Nguyen, A.; Hassanin, A.; Volobouev, V.T. (2008). "Phylogenetic position of the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) inferred from cytogenetic analysis of eleven species of Bovidae". Cytogenetic and Genome Research. 122 (1): 41–54. doi:10.1159/000151315. PMID 18931485. S2CID 20910793.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Groves, C.; Grubb, P. (2011). Ungulate Taxonomy. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  10. ^ Lenstra, J.A.; Bradley, D.G. (1999). "Systematics and phylogeny of cattle". The Genetics of Cattle: 1–14.
  11. ^ Wilson, W.E.; Reeder, D.M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  12. ^ Grubb, Peter (2005). "Syncerus". In Wilson, Don E.; Reeder, DeeAnn M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd (online edition) ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801882210.
  13. ^ Kingdon, J. (2015). The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Princeton University Press.
  14. ^ Heller, R.; Frandsen, P.; Lorenzen, E. D.; Siegismund, H. R. (2013). "Are there really twice as many bovid species as we thought?". Systematic Biology. 62 (3): 490–493. doi:10.1093/sysbio/syt004. PMID 23362112.
  15. ^ Haile-Selassie, Yohannes; Vrba, Elizabeth S.; Bibi, Faysal (2009). "Bovidae". In Haile-Selassie, Yohannes; WoldeGabriel, Giday (eds.). Ardipithecus Kadabba: Late Miocene Evidence from the Middle Awash, Ethiopia. University of California Press. pp. 295–. ISBN 978-0-520-25440-4.
  16. ^ Rozzi, R. (2017). "Rozzi, R. (2017). A new extinct dwarfed buffalo from Sulawesi and the evolution of the subgenus Anoa: An interdisciplinary perspective". Quaternary Science Reviews. 157: 188–205. Bibcode:2017QSRv..157..188R. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2016.12.011.
  17. ^ Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro, Juan Antonio Pérez-Claros, Maria Rita Palombo, Lorenzo Rook, and Paul Palmqvist: The Olduvai buffalo Pelorovis and the origin of Bos. Quaternary Research Volume 68, Issue 2, September 2007, Pages 220-226. online