When you start researching an African safari, the term "Big Five" often crops up. The "Big 5" refers to the African: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. Why not the hippo, gorilla or giraffe you may ask? Are they not large as well? How about the cheetah -- that would be an animal you would probably like to see as much as a buffalo. Well, the term "big five" was actually coined by big game hunters (not safari tour operators). It refers to the difficulty in bagging these large animals, mostly due to their ferocity when cornered and shot at.
Safari tour operators simply took the phrase "big 5" and turned it into a marketing term. A shame really since I've been on more than one safari where guides have sped past a giraffe en route to buffalo, simply because it was assumed I'd like to see the "big five" over anything else. A poll I conducted shows that I am not alone in finding a giraffe infinitely more exciting to spot than a Cape buffalo.
Click through for information, facts and photos about the "Big 5"
What About the "Little Five"?
The "Little Five" is just a fun idea, not based on anything beyond the fact that there are five little animals found in Africa, with names corresponding to the "Big Five". The Little Five are: Rhinoceros Beetle, Buffalo Weaver, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortoise, and the Ant Lion
What's the "Big Seven"?
You may also come across the term "big seven", South African Tour operators coined this phrase, it's just another clever safari marketing term. Nevertheless it does prove the fact that South Africa has an incredible diversity of wildlife as the "Big 7" includes the Great White shark and the Southern Right Whale.