The strange story of the forest when a newborn buffalo has hooves shaped like a bear’s claw


A buffalo calf that looked quite different from the rest of the herd was spotted! The calf was born with a disease called hyperkeratosis that results in bear-like claws instead of hooves and abnormally thick legs.

Pam Bruce-Brand, while on her annual bush vacation, came across this strange sight and shared it with

“While driving in the central Kruger National Park on the S90 towards the Shitsalaleni waterhole. We came across a massive herd of buffalo grazing and moving toward the waterhole. Some buffaloes were already wallowing and drinking water.”

The maximum recorded lifespan for a buffalo living in the wild is 25 years.

Buffalo calves are born in large herds, and it is not uncommon to see dozens of calves within a single group. These young animals are able to stand and walk within an hour of birth, which is necessary for their survival in the wild. Young buffalo stay close to their mothers and siblings for protection and guidance because predators like lions and hyenas often target them.

The large herd was made up of buffaloes that were old and young. Among them, I noticed a calf that looked a little strange. As it got closer, the deformity could be seen more clearly. Thick legs and bear-like claws instead of hooves. It was a rare and intriguing sight that left me curious.”

The reason for the bear-like claws on the buffalo calf could be due to a nutritional deficiency or a genetic mutation. The disease is called hyperkeratosis. Hoof problems can lead to lameness, which is a major issue for animals in the wild. The calves need to have strong and healthy hooves to keep up with the herd and avoid becoming prey.


As the calves grow, their hooves become stronger and more durable. This is essential for their survival in the harsh African wilderness. A healthy buffalo hoof is curved and tough, this enables the animal to grip the ground and avoid slipping. This is particularly important during the wet season when the ground can become muddy and slippery.

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“We switched off our engine and sat for over an hour watching and photographing them. The little calf had a strange stride but looked as happy as its siblings. Going about its day as if nothing were wrong.”

“Patience is key when on safari. Observe your surroundings and stay alert; it often pays off and you get chances to witness incredible and unusual sights.”

In the wild, buffalo herds are often on the move. They need to find food and water sources and avoid predators. This means that the calves need to be able to keep up with the rest of the herd. A weak or injured calf is a liability to the group, as it may slow them down or attract predators.


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