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Scientific classification | Kingdom: Animalia | Phylum: Chordata | Class: Mammalia | Order: Artiodactyla | Family: Bovidae | Subfamily: Bovinae | Genus: Bubalus | Species: B. bubalis
The water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) or domestic Asian water buffalo is a large bovid originating in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China. Today, it is also found in Europe, Australia, South America and some African countries. The wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee arnee) native to Southeast Asia is considered a different species, but most likely represents the ancestor of the domestic water buffalo.
Two extant types of domestic water buffalo are recognized based on morphological and behavioural criteria – the river buffalo of South Asia and further west to the Balkans, Egypt, and Italy, and the swamp buffalo, found from Assam in the west through Southeast Asia to the Yangtze valley of China in the east. The origins of the domestic water buffalo types are debated, although results of a phylogenetic study indicate that the swamp type may have originated in China and was domesticated about 4,000 years ago, while the river type may have originated from India and was domesticated about 5,000 years ago.Water buffalo were traded from the Indus Valley Civilisation to Mesopotamia, in modern Iraq, 2500 BC by the Meluhhas. The seal of a scribe employed by an Akkadian king shows the sacrifice of water buffalo.
At least 130 million domestic water buffalo exist, and more people depend on them than on any other domestic animal. They are especially suitable for tilling rice fields, and their milk is richer in fat and protein than that of dairy cattle. The large feral population of northern Australia became established in the late 19th century, and smaller feral herds are in New Guinea, Tunisia, and northeastern Argentina. Feral herds are also present in New Britain, New Ireland, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, and Uruguay.