It was obviously breeding season for the buffalo as all over Bundala and Yala there were grappling males and females with newly minted young, fresh and gleaming. The Sri Lankan water buffalo, though not as formidable as the African version is still quite a large and bulky beast. Having stood a few meters away from a pissed off looking wild buffalo many moons ago, I can still attest to the raw fear that one feels when looking one of these creatures eye to eye, a fear that hasn’t been dulled by time.
In the parks though the majority off the buff you see are the domestic creatures that have gone feral. Though by no means dainty, the truly massive and impressive specimens are the descendants of the true wild buffalo, Kulu-harak as these are euphemistically called in Sinhala. As to whether there are any genetically pure wild buff left in the wild is unlikely but you can see the flashes of the old, untamed beasts in some at Yala (for a rather fascinatin discussion on the wild vs. feral buffalo issue click here).
The first pair of wrestling beasts we saw in Bundala was relatively tame. They seemed to be more of the Greek wrestling tradition than anything rather more extravagant and spent most of their time seemingly rubbing heads with each other in a half-hearted manner. To be fair though it was pretty early in the morning so perhaps they hadn’t had their morning coffee just yet.
The next pair of dueling buff we saw in Yala were however quite impressive. Coming to an open plain we initially spotted two buffalo staring each other down. These were big guys as well, with a much larger curved span of horns than the ones we had seen in Bundala plus muscular, barrel like bodies.
There was a spurt of dust as one of the buffaloes started its run in. I was torn trying to decide what was more impressive; the buffalo running in, ludicrously nimble considering its bulk or the other one that just stood there, impassive as a rock while a couple of hundred weight of bovine fury galloped at it full tilt.
We could hear the impact from many meters away. A dull, meaty thud as the dust flared and horns locked. After a brief skirmish the pair separated and the buffalo who had run in went back to take his mark.
Once again the run and hit was repeated with a briefer skirmish. The buffalo that had stood his ground was obviously a notch above as when the pair separated for the second time, the runner decided enough was enough and he wandered off...possibly on the look out for an ice pack.