Black Buffalo
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Mouth/Snout
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • Close-up of head: The lines are indicating distances: eye-preopercle corner, eye-upper gill cleft, E-PC < E-UGC.
  • Close-up of mouth: Notice the thick lips with gooves, inferior mouth and no barbels.
  • Side view: Notice the rounded back without clear hump, depth 29-38% of SL, head 26-34% of SL, the sides are dark.
  • Close-up anal fin: Notice that the anal fin is darkly pigmented; there is no spine and 8-9 rays.
  • Close-up of head: Notice the inferior mouth.
  • Close-up pelvic fin: Notice that the pelvic fins are darkly pigmented.
  • Close-up of dorsal fin: Notice that there is no spine and 27-31 rays.
  • Head-on view: Notice the minute tubercles on the head.
  • Close-up of head: Notice the minute tubercles on the head.
  • Alternate side view.
  • Alternate side view.
  • Alternate side view.
  • Hybrid of Smallmouth X Black Buffalo (?): Notice the intermediate body shape and the mouth position.
  • Hybrid of Smallmouth X Black Buffalo (?): Notice the intermediate body shape and the mouth position.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Suckers (Catostomidae)
Mouth and snout: Infertior, no teeth on jaws. No barbels. Body patterning, color, and scales: Solid color. Body overall dark olive, dark gray, or dusky black, grading from darkest on the dorsal surface to lightest on the belly. Fins heavily and darkly pigmented. 36-39 cycloid lateral line scales. Body shape and size: Body somewhat laterally compressed and moderately deep; oval to almost round cross section. Typically 400-500 mm (16-20 in) TL; maximum observed Wisconsin about 800 mm (32 in).
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Forked tail. Single dorsal with no spines and 27-31 rays; first few rays elongated (about 25-50% of dorsal fin base). Pelvic fins abdominal. Adipose fin absent. Anal fin with 8-9 rays.
Distinguishing Characteristics
The black buffalo can be distinguished by its lack of a serrated spine at the front of the dorsal and anal fins, its number of anal rays (8-10) and dorsal rays (24-32), by its number of lateral line scales (34-39), by its lack of barbels, by the ratio of the distance from the eye to the ventro-posterior angle of the pre-opercle to the distance from the eye to dorso-posterior edge of the gill opening, which is distinctly less than one, by the lack of a fontanelle (hole) in the roof of the skull between the eyes, a robust, reinforced-opposite-the-teeth pharyngeal arch, and by a longitudinal, parallel pattern of the intestine. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Males sometimes with minute tubercles on head, scales, an anterior pelvic rays.
Very small specimens are less deep-bodied with a relatively larger eye. Note that juvenile smallmouth buffalo and black buffalo are nearly impossible to distinguish, as body profile differences are minimal at small sizes (< 200 mm TL).
Smallmouth buffalo X Black buffalo; bigmouth buffalo X black buffalo plausible but unconfirmed from Wisconsin.
Compare Similar Species
Buffalo, BigmouthTerminal; lips thin with shallow grooves
Buffalo, BlackSubterminal or inferior; lips thick with deep grooves
Buffalo, SmallmouthInferior; lips thick with deep grooves
Body Profile
Buffalo, BigmouthDeep bodied, but back more rounded and not as steeply arched as for smallmouth buffalo; BD 30-42% of SL; HL 28-38% of SL
Buffalo, BlackSomewhat deep-bodied, but less so and more elongated than other buffalos; back rounded without a distinctive arch or ridge; BD 29-38% of SL; HL 26-34% of SL; smallmouth buffalo are very difficult to distinguish, except at large sizes (>500mm TL)
Buffalo, SmallmouthVery deep-bodied, sharply arched/ridged back; steep profile from head to dorsal fin, giving a "humped" appearance in lateral view; body depth (BD) about 36-42% of standard length (SL); head length (HL) about 24-29% of SL
Similarity Index
Buffalo, BigmouthModerately similar
Buffalo, BlackN/A
Buffalo, SmallmouthVery similar