Buffalo vs Cow (Is A Buffalo A Cow?)

Common domestic cattle and Buffalo are two separate species, but they are closely related. Buffalo are not domestic cows, although like many mammals, a female buffalo with a calf may sometimes be described as a buffalo cow.

In this article, we’re going to explore the differences between buffalo and cows, figure out where they came from and how they are related, and learn why some buffalo actually are cows, even though they are two separate species.

Buffalo vs Cow

Is A Buffalo A Cow?

Before we can fully understand the answer to this question, it’s important to define exactly what we mean by “cow”.

In colloquial terms, “cow” usually just means domestic cows, or cattle. The kind of cows you see commonly raised for beef or dairy. (This species is called Bos Taurus)

Read More: Cow vs Cattle vs Livestock Explanation

In scientific terms, the word “cow” can be used to describe a mature female mammal who has given birth to at least one calf. This definition is commonly used for several species, including seals, whales, elephants, moose, and buffalo.

Although buffalo are a different species from domestic cattle, a mature female buffalo with a calf can be called a buffalo cow, just like other large mammals.

What’s the Difference Between Buffalo and Cow?

Buffalo and domestic cattle (cows) are two separate species, but they are both from the Bovidae family of animals.

All bovidae share some similarities with each other (they all have horns, tails, no upper incisors, and four toes on each foot) but there are some important differences between buffalo and domestic cattle.

Differences between buffalo and cows (domestic cattle):

  • Buffalo are more muscular than domestic cows
  • Buffalo produce less milk than selectively bred dairy cows
  • Buffalo milk has more fat than domestic cow milk
  • Buffalo live for up to 30 years, compared to 20 years for cows
  • Buffalo meat has about 3.5 times less fat than regular beef
  • Buffalo are more resistant to disease than cows
  • All Buffalo have horns, whereas some breeds of cow are naturally hornless (polled)

Related Article: Do Buffalo Produce Milk?

Do Farmers Ever Raise Buffalo?

Buffalo meat is rarely eaten in the west, but is commonly eaten in several countries around the world including India, Nepal, China, and Australia, where buffalo are common.

The largest consumer and exporter of buffalo meat is India, where domestic cattle are considered sacred by the Hindu religion.

India exports almost one million metric tons of buffalo meat every year, with the largest customers being Vietnam, Malaysia, Egypt, and Indonesia.

In the United States, the term “buffalo” is commonly used to refer to meat from Bison, which is actually not a buffalo at all and a completely separate species of Bovid, in the same family as domestic cattle and buffalo.

Bison meat (commonly called buffalo meat in the USA) is becoming more popular, with figures from the 2017 USDA census figures showing over 180,000 animals currently being farmed in the US, held on almost 1800 farms.

Read Also: Are Buffalos Prey?

What is a Beefalo?

A Beefalo is a crossbreed between domestic beef cattle and a bison.

Bison are incorrectly known as buffalo in the United States (Hence Beefalo), and these bison/cattle hybrids are raised for beef, just like regular beef cattle. 

Farmers cross these two species to try to combine the disease resilience and less fatty meat of the bison with the fast growth rate and cooperative nature of domesticated beef cattle.

Related Article: Do Buffalo Smile?

Are Water Buffalo Cows?

Water buffalo are a species of buffalo originating from the Indus Valley, but which can now be found across Asia. 

Water Buffalo are a completely separate species from domestic cattle, although they belong to the same family (Bovidae).

How Are Buffalo Related To Cows?

Buffalo, Bison, and Domestic Cattle are all separate species, but they all belong to the same family of animals, called Bovids.

Are Cows Descended from Buffalo?

Domesticated cattle (cows) are not descended from buffalo, but they are both evolved from a common ancestor.

What Other Animals Are Related To Cows And Buffalo?

Both buffalo and cows are from the bovidae species, which also includes:

  • Wildebeest
  • Antelopes
  • Sheep
  • Goats
  • Bison
  • Ibexes
  • Dik-diks
  • Gazelles
  • Springboks

Related Article: Is Buffalo Semi-Aquatic Animal?

Are Buffalo Bigger Than Cows?

Buffalo tend to weigh more than cows, however this is more due to buffalo having more muscle, larger and denser bones, and less fat than cows rather than physical size.

Buffalo are products of evolution. Their thick skulls, dense bones and muscular bodies are designed for defending themselves from predators.

In comparison, domesticated beef cattle have few predators and have been selectively bred for efficient meat yields, meaning their meat is fattier, but their bones are smaller and less dense than their wild ancestors.

What Are The Scientific Names for Cows and Buffalo?

SpeciesCommon NameScientific Name
Domestic CattleCowsBos Taurus
American BisonBuffalo (US) / BisonBison Bison
Water BuffaloBuffalo / Water BuffaloBubalus bubalis
African BuffaloBuffaloSyncerus caffer

How Are Bison Related To Cows and Buffalo?

Although commonly referred to as buffalo in the United States, bison are not actually buffalo at all. Bison are evolutionary cousins of both domesticated cattle and buffalo, sharing a common ancestor and belonging to the Bovidae family of animals.


In conclusion, although buffalo and domesticated cattle (commonly known as cows) are separate species, any large, female mammal who has given birth to a calf may be referred to as a cow. 

This applies not only to buffalo, but whales, seals, bison, elk, moose, dolphins, elephants, and any other large mammals.

In the United States, the word “buffalo” usually refers not to buffalo, but to Bison, which are a separate but related species to both buffalo and domesticated cattle.

American Bison (Bison bison) are sometimes bred with domesticated beef cattle (Bos Taurus) to create a hybrid species commonly called Beefalo.

Beefalo are an attempt by farmers to combine the high beef yield and docile nature of beef cattle with the hardier and more disease resistant bison.

Bison, Buffalo, and Domestic Cattle (cows) are all related, being members of the same family of animals called Bovidae.

The Bovidae family of animals contains many other cloven-hoofed animals, including antelope, sheep, goats, and gazelles.

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