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What are the Big 5 African Animals?

What are THE BIG 5 animals of Africa? If you planning a trip to Africa, you’ll want to learn about the iconic animals that symbolize the wildness and scale of Africa, and they are the wild stars of all our personalized African safaris.


The “King of the Jungle” lives out on the at savannah and is a very powerful and agile hunter. Because lions prowl in prides, a coordinated lion attack on a buffalo herd can be an incredible battle. Since only 1/4 to 1/6 of lions’ predatory chases are successful, you can enjoy the thrill several times in a day. Once they’ve caught dinner, they’re not nearly as active; they sleep around 20 hours a day.


As the smallest of the Big 5, leopards are cunning hunters that use stealth and surprise as their weapons instead of brute force. To prevent lions or other predators from stealing their prey, leopards often drag their meals up into trees to dine in peace. Considering they’ve been known to haul a 280-pound young gira e up a tree, you get a sense that they’ve got some muscle, too.

Wild Leopard Photographed in the Mara Plains Near Masai Mara - A Private Conservancy in Kenya

African Buffalo

Why is a buffalo on the same list as these other fearsome creatures? African buffalo are unpredictable and have the strength to overturn a car. They are well equipped to battle each other for dominance, and to fend off lion attacks. The skin on their necks can be two inches thick.

African Buffalo Near Seba Camp at Okavango Delta in Botswana


Definitely the rarest of the Big 5, rhinos can be the hardest to spot. But good guides can make all the difference. White rhinos are the biggest rhinos, as massive as 50 average humans. Black rhinos are only half that size, but still can weigh well over 3,000 pounds. It’s fortunate that they’re not as ill-tempered as they are rumored to be. Still, don’t plan on petting any on safari.

Rhino Photographed Near Sabi Sabi Selati Camp in Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa

African Elephant

While their sheer size is intimidating, elephants are mostly peaceful animals, as long as they are given their space. One of the greatest joys of these gentle giants is in watching them interact with their herd members, looking out for each other’s calves, touching trunks as a greeting and other surprising displays of “humanity.”

Wild Elephants in Zambia - Photo by Robin Pope Safaris

Africa’s Big 5 & Game Viewing Safaris

The first version of this article was posted on Aug 13, 2014 at 1:37 PM.

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