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The most difficult parts of discussing the Water Buffalo with citizens of North America or any non-Asian fan of the American cowboy or jungle adventure movie is to identify the correct animal. There are many closely related groups within the Order Artiodactyls or even toed animals. The American Bison or American Western Buffalo is not a true buffalo but its own Genus . They are closer to cattle (Bos) than to the water buffalo and will interbreed with cattle. The African Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is actually only a distant relative. Their reputation for a mean-tempered disposition has tarnished the Water Buffalo, with which they will not interbreed and which is classified in a different genus. Most water buffalo are generally docile and are frequently seen being tended and ridden by small children. An apparent exception is the Egyptian male buffalo which can be highly temperamental. There are two general types of water buffalo the Swamp (Bubalus carabanesis) which are found from the Philippines to as far west as India and River (Bubalus bubalis) which are found farther west from India to Egypt and Europe. 

NOTE: The genus name Bubalus is sometimes spelled Bubalis The water buffalo has been associated with man from the earliest prehistoric times. Although the water buffalo was originally an Asian animal, it arrived early (about 600 A.D.) in the Near East and North Africa. It was introduced to Europe by crusaders returning in the Middle Ages and outstanding herds still exist in Italy and Bulgaria. In recent times, the water buffalo has prospered in South and Central America. Micronesia and Australia have also introduced them. China and Burma also depends heavily on the water buffalo and its products. India depends upon the water buffalo for meat and milk. In Australia and the US a secondary industry has developed in hunting them as trophies evidently as feral animals they can become rather Wiley however to a reader from Asia or the Near East, I assume that this must sound like someone trophy hunting a Jersey Cow. Before the mid 1970s, the only water buffaloes in North America were a few animals in zoos. The US imported ~50 animals in February 1978. Air freighted from the wilds of Guam, the US possession in the western Pacific, by Mr. Tony Leonards. Prior to that time (in 1974 or 75) four (or five) head of water buffalo were imported to the Department of Animal Science, University of Florida, for study. (See US water buffalo history). Ms. Patricia M. Sorrells has done a interesting analysis of this introduction. Several small herds, totalling about 3500 head, now exist in Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas and even Oregon. They are generally considered to be alternative exotic livestock. 

According to the latest FAO statistics, the world buffalo population in 1982 and 1992 were 128 and 148 million, respectively, indicating 1.5% average annual growth rate for the past decade. The buffalo population in Asia was consistently 95-96% of the world total for the last 10 years. In South Asia, India, a country of the world largest buffalo population, accounted 53% of the world total in 1992 and increased her buffalo population by 880 thousand for the last 10 years with an annual average increase rate of 1.1% In India, water buffaloes make up about 35% of milk animals (other than goats) but produce almost 70% of the milk. In 1995-96 India was estimated to have about 194 million cattle and 82 million water buffalo a 0.7% increase from 94-95. Pakistan with the third world largest buffalo population performed well to increase her buffaloes with an average annual increase rate of 4.7% Both Bangladesh and Nepal indicated positive growth of 5.7% and 2.1% respectively, while Sir Lanka recorded negative growth of -0.3%. China, having the second world largest buffalo population only after India, recorded 18.8 million in 1982 and 22.0 million in 1992 with an average growth rate of 1.6%. In Southeast Asia, Thailand held the largest buffalo population but lost a considerable number during the last decade with a negative annual growth rate of -3.4% Also the Philippines and Malaysia indicated the negative growth of -1.3% and -2.3% respectively. Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar did indicate positive growth with annual increase rate of 3.0%, 2.3%, 2.0% and 0.2% respectively. The buffalo number was 78 head per 1000 Asian agricultural population in 1982 while the corresponding figure was 82 in 1992.  Buffalo butterfat is the major source of cooking oil (ghee) in some Asian countries. In the US, they have been introduced as an "exotic" livestock with developers hoping to build a market for the distinctive mozzarella cheese and low cholesterol meat. A market for leather goods and decorative horn products is also developing. In Asia, the Middle East and Europe, water buffaloes live on course vegetation on the marginal land traditionally left to the peasants. They help make human survival possible serving as a protein source, tractor and storage of family wealth. In some areas, they also provide recreation at annual racing festivals. On Taiwan water buffalo are being replaced by western cattle and efforts are being made to protect the germplasm. In 1980, Sir Lanka sponsored an international workshop on the water buffalo.