What Are The Characteristics Of A Water Buffalo?
The principal advantageous characteristic of the water buffalo is its special ability to subsist on coarse feed, straw and crop residues and to convert these materials into protein-rich lean meat that is low in cholesterol.
This efficiency in transforming pasture may be due to this species’ slow, efficacious chewing motion that involves more developed muscle fibres for rumination than in the case of cattle, including the digastric muscle, the masseter muscle, the pterygoid muscle, and even the tongue (P = 0.05). Other important features include its larger corporal volume, slower movement, smaller outflow rate, and higher bacterial activity.
The water buffalo is well-adapted to humid tropical climates, but prolonged exposure to high temperatures can trigger a series of dramatic changes in its biological functions that directly affect thermoregulation.
These alterations include depressed food intake, efficiency and utilisation, disturbances in water metabolism, protein, energy and mineral balances, hormonal secretions, enzymatic reactions, and blood metabolite levels.
The water buffalo has dark skin sparsely covered with hair. As a species, it is highly susceptible to thermal stress, especially under direct exposure to the sun’s rays, since its evaporative cutaneous cooling mechanism is weak owing to the low density of sweat glands.
For these reasons, the water buffalo has poor thermoregulation and often requires shade, or water in which to wallow, a behaviour that confers the additional advantage of providing protection against external parasites.
In hot conditions, the water buffalo increases its blood volume and flow to the skin surface in order to maintain a high skin temperature and facilitate heat dissipation while it lolls in mud or water. In situations of stress, activation of the autonomic sympathetic system induces the release of epinephrine, which has effects similar to those of cortisol as it increases body temperature and the rate and depth of respiration.
The water buffalo has conserved the semi-wild type of behaviour that is its nature. The feeding behaviour of the water buffalo is similar to that of cattle raised in similar conditions, but these two species are differentiated by the wallowing behaviour that characterises the former. Both water buffaloes and cattle spend 99% of their waking hours ingesting food, ruminating, resting and drinking water; the remaining 1% is devoted to locomotion and other activities.
During the day, these animals generally pass the time by consuming pasture and ruminating, but they probably also graze at night reported that food ingestion increases as daylight hours advance, although these observations run counter to the findings reported in Thomas et al., who observed that water buffaloes spend significantly more time eating during the day compared to the night. On this point, Odyuo et al. (1995) affirm that eating, idling and walking were more frequent during daylight hours, while ruminating and sleeping were the predominant activities performed at night.
Studies that evaluated 16-month-old water buffaloes of the Bufalipso breed that were allowed access to feed (Panicum máximum) and water ad libitum showed that, compared to bovine cattle, those animals devoted more time to rumination (53.7 vs. 37.9%), less time to ingesting forage (22.4 vs. 32.9%), and more time at rest (31.3 vs. 27%) have also reported that these beasts spend most of their time grazing (58.6%), followed by ruminating (28.2%), lying down (26.5%), wallowing (12.9%), and standing (1.4%).
They found that when these animals had access to a pond or ditch, the proportion of wallowing was two times greater than when they had access to a stream (P < 0.05). Napolitano et al., meanwhile, reported that during summer and autumn the animals displayed higher levels of inactivity, as shown by increased lying down and ruminating behaviours.
Other studies have found that activities like locomotion and exploration (P = 0.01), social interaction (sniffing, nuzzling), and allogrooming (P < 0.01 and P < 0.05, respectively) all increase when the water buffalo has access to a concrete pool. In this regard, expression of Orexin A and its receptor OX (1) has been found in the brains of water buffaloes.
This protein modulates feeding behaviour, the sleep-wake cycle, and energy homeostasis, as well as associated drinking behaviours.
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