How to Draw a Buffalo

Drawing Animals

How to Draw a Buffalo

All animals have archetypal patterns which determine their movement and behavior.  These patterns give each animal its unique characteristics. Think about how all cats flick their tails when they are annoyed.  These are the traits you want to capture if you want to depict the animal realistically. Observing an animal in its natural habitat is the best way to get a sense of these traits.  When this is not possible, zoos are another option. You can also watch videos of the animal you want to draw.  As you observe, study the animal’s movements and expressions. Think about how to draw a buffalo. How is it characteristically different from other ungulates (large mammals who typically support themselves on hooves)?  A buffalo has a shaggy, dark brown coat and an unusually large head.  The front of its body is broad compared to the back. These are the things you want to take note of before you try to draw one. If you have never drawn before or need to refresh yourself on basic concepts, you can learn the Secrets of Drawing in an online short course.

Developing Your Style as an Artist

Being an artist is actually a lifelong process of becoming.  Remember you are always evolving over time, changing and adapting your techniques. You will probably try many different mediums and materials over your lifetime, and you should do this without any restriction or hesitation.  Study other techniques and learn from them. Eventually, your own technique will emerge, one that reflects your unique vision of the world.

Preparing Your Artist’s Tool Kit

Pull together everything you need for your project. Do it as a sort of preparation ritual to get yourself in the mindset of drawing. Here is a general list to get you started:

  • Sketch pad
  • For your initial rough drawings.
  • Pencils
    • Go for a good quality pencil. The type of pencil and the pressure you use will determine darkness.  Hard pencils are for sharper lines. Soft pencils are good for shading.
  • Paper
    • You may want to try using Bristol two-ply cotton paper for a buffalo drawing because the paper’s texture helps create the dimension of the fur by leaving skips.
  • Kneaded erasers
    • These erasers are good for cleaning large areas and general shaping. They can also be used for lifting areas that are too dark.
  • Tortillions
    • These are rolled and pointed paper sticks that look something like a hand-rolled cigarette. They are used for blending or softening pencil lines and for folding in shadowy areas to create a 3-dimensional appearance.
  • Fixative
    • Seals your markings in place and keeps them from smudging.

 Artist’s Concepts


Small, white areas which depict light reflection.


A quick drawing without much detail, for planning and reference.


Shading gives your drawing its texture.


The element of art that deals with lightness and darkness in a drawing.


The 3-dimensional quality in every form.


The element of art that refers to how things feel.

Field Research

You need to have good reference material for your buffalo drawing, something to which you can return when you are actually drawing the animal. Sit and watch the animals to get a general feel for their behavior. Watch the males and females interacting with each other. How are they different? Which one will you draw?  Once you decide, see if you can see one that has more personality than the rest and watch that one.  Getting familiar with the art of portrait drawing is a good way to learn how to portray distinct character traits in an image.

If you are going to go out into the field to watch a buffalo, whether it’s at a park, zoo, or farm, you should take a field pack.  A field pack will have everything you need for your research and observation.  Your field pack might include:

  • Camera and necessary art tools
  • Sketch pad
  • Pencils
  • Sharpening tools
  • Binoculars
  • Journal or recording device

Gesture sketches

Use these for capturing the essence of a moment and for building reference material about how the animal behaves. Observe the important details: the curls, the way the animal hangs its head, the shape of its horn, and the way its beard hangs.  Use shapes such as ovals, triangles, and circles at first, then fill in the details, such as the curls, later. You should create several of these as you watch the animal.

Starting with basic shapes helps you determine the proportions of the animal’s parts. All you are doing is attempting to depict the general form of the animal using basic shapes; they do not have to be perfect.  Gesture sketches are also good for helping you to develop good hand-eye coordination. To learn better techniques in sketching, check out this article on sketching as a visual thinking power tool.

How to Draw a Buffalo: Step by step

  1. Draw a series of circles for the outline and one central circle for the midsection.
  2. Draw medium and small circles to depict the head and tail end.
  3. To help you fill in the facial features later, draw a crosshair in the head circle to create four quadrants.
  4. To draw the thighs, try to see how to use two smaller circles, adding the legs using four angular lines. It will basically look like it has only two skinny legs at first.
  5. Now connect the body using curved lines, creating the general shape of the animal.
  6. Next fill in the face.  Draw the eye of the buffalo in the top right quadrant of your circle, close to the intersection of the two lines. See if you can depict the natural shape of its eye.  Look back at your notes for clarification.
  7. Add the horn on the upper left side of the quadrant.
  8. Still using the shapes concept, sketch the muzzle and nose on the outside of the lower right quadrant, again referring to your notes. What are the general shapes of these structures? Do you see triangles?
  9. Next, sketch the nostril and mouth, using lines.
  10. Now for the ear, again using lines, sketch the general shape of the ear, just under the horn.
  11. You are now ready to fill in the buffalo’s legs using the lines you have already sketched.  To create the outside of the leg, connect the circle at the back end to the left leg line, using light strokes to achieve the look you want. Do the same thing to create the inside of the leg.
  12. Add the leg joints using circles, then fill in around them. Use lines and half-circles to create the hooves.
  13. Fill in the other back leg using the other line.
  14. For the front leg, using the initial lines as your guides, begin to sketch out the shape, keeping in mind the shaggy coat that covers the top part of the limb.  You can use quick, short strokes to depict the fur.  Draw the right foot just under the fur.
  15. Now sketch the shape of the body from the top part of the head and neck down to the smaller circle at the tail end, using small strokes.
  16. To get the right depth and dimension of the furry coat, go back to your visual guides and use lines to create the shape.
  17. Add the tail.
  18. Go back and erase as much of the initial line guides as possible to reveal your image.
  19. Play with shading to give your drawing its true shape and form, adjusting your pressure for varying degrees of tonal value.  Shading is one of the best ways to give your buffalo drawing a realistic look and feel.
  20. Add a cast shadow underneath.

Wasn’t that easier than you thought?  If not, then to gain some more experience and build your confidence as an artist, why not look into a short course to learn to draw in a few simple, fun, steps.