My Run-in with an African Buffalo

I’m on the lower slopes of an incline, on a dirt road winding its way up towards the escarpment above.  A strong breeze from the right silences the landscape and fades my footsteps into a soft metronome.  The road twists to the left as I tiptoe over a mountain stream making its way down towards the valleys below.  I notice a few wildlife tracks muzzled in the mud.  Probably Eland, I think, as I’ve seen a large herd trotting along above me a short while ago.  I’ve been running since 5AM and have covered some thirty-four kilometers by the time I reach this spot.  I’m still okay though, enjoying the solitude between the steeper slopes on my right and the grass valleys covered with thousands of medium game grazing down towards my left.  It’s a picture-perfect scene.  I follow the road to the left, with the breeze now blasting me down this short but subtle section of downhill towards the next rise.  I find the road turning to the right again, winding its way up along the smoothest gradients.  It’s a sharp right turn and I’m looking upwards, trying to create a blueprint in my mind of where I’m supposed to be going.  I’m moving swiftly; I’m alone; there’s no cell phone reception, and there’s no stress.  It’s the perfect setup…for an ambush. 

A sudden commotion on my left shivers my senses as I jump and turn my entire body towards whatever that was.  Time stops and my eternity freezes; my mind tries to process this unknown reality in a split second.  Yes, it’s true, I realise, as I find myself staring right into the eyes of a rattled buffalo only about ten to fifteen meters away.  I have no cover and I have no safety, except for a tiny compulsory whistle and a space blanket, thanks for coming.  My peripheral vision catches a glimpse of two buffalo running into the distance, but I don’t lose eye contact with this mighty beast that already started moving towards me.  No, no, no, no, no, I mumble loudly in Afrikaans.  There’s no time to think; there’s no time to look away and run; there’s no time for anything.  I move backwards and act only on instinct as my speed increases, with the buffalo now in a trot.  I realise I’m in big trouble and have a million thoughts rushing through my mind.  I’m passing a thickish bush on my left as I keep on moving backwards; perhaps my safety, literally my only option.  I move swiftly to my left to try and use this bush as a shield.  Perhaps I can run circles around it, I think, a half-a-ton beast surely can’t corner that fast?  I’ve not lost eye contact with the buffalo and can still see it coming through the branches and leaves.  Its trot turns into a charge as it comes right at me, perhaps humiliated by my actions of thinking this vegetation barrier might be a match.  It breaks straight through the branches, not losing any momentum, as I reverse a few extra steps and stumble over some grass lumps or uneven terrain, falling flat on my back.  Here I am, vulnerable, frightened, and exposed with my million thoughts suddenly pausing at one: This is it; it is now out of my hands; I’m going to be gored into the ground.  The buffalo drops its head and knocks me on the thigh with the thick boss in the middle of its horns as it continues to run over me.  I look back, anticipating it to turn around again, but it doesn’t, it carries on running.  Injected with adrenaline I jump up and rush towards that bush again, sitting small and quiet behind it, surveying the slightest of movements in all directions.  It’s time to go, I need to get out of here, I’m not waiting for a second time to tango.  I jump to my feet and head on straight upwards, this time I’m ready.  My thigh muscle is bruised, but I can move, so I’ll deal with that later.  Fifty meters further I realise it’s over as I reduce my speed to a fast hike instead.  I’ve just survived an altercation with a buffalo, it was my lucky day, and it could only have been His grace from above that saved me.

Looking back and assessing the situation with my limited knowledge in the field, I realise the buffalo was probably only acting on instinct.  I was running straight at them with the wind on my back, so they must have sensed me coming, only for me to pop over that rise and turn right at the very last second just as I approached them.  They caught a fright, resulting in two of them running away and the one choosing to stand its ground.  I don’t know if there were more buffalo over that rise, but I only saw three.  That buffalo could have killed me or ripped me open if that was the intention, luckily it wasn’t.  After going over me it kept on running, not looking back, not scared that I’ll come and hit it with a stick from behind.  I don’t think the buffalo was to blame, it was several circumstances that led to me being in the wrong place at precisely the wrong time.

I’ve been close to thousand-meter cliffs where you can choose and determine your own outcome.  This one was different, I was purely at the “hands” of a buffalo, and I had no chance.  I would therefore like to thank God for protecting and sparing me on this day, it was only a miracle.

Cheers to the next one (hopefully not of this sort),

Live a little,


[I’ve purposely not named any organisations, lodges, farms, or people within this post as it is not my intention to bad-mouth anyone or create negative attention.  I lived to tell the story and wanted it to be remembered.]

Photo Credit: Jason Street [Note: Photo not taken on the same farm]