The term 'big five' was historically used to denote the five most dangerous animals to hunt in South Africa. However, at present, the term simply refers to South Africa's most popular and exciting creatures: the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros.
The so-called king of beasts, the lion, is on everybody's list of animals to see. The fascination is no doubt due to the size and awesome power of this big cat, as well as its formidable hunting prowess.
A more elusive cat than the lion, the leopard, is the most adaptable of the large predators and may still be found in close proximity to man. It is able to survive in almost any environment, be it the forest, savannah, desert or mountain top.
The African Elephant is the largest land mammal and perhaps the continent's most charismatic creature. Their magnificence and apparent compassion captivates game viewers and seemingly the whole of the human imagination.
Closely related to the domestic cow, the African buffalo is one of the most successful and ecologically important mammals on the African continent. Buffalo are completely dependent upon surface water, so are absent from arid and semi-arid regions but are widespread and common in savannah, woodland and forest environments.
The final member of the big five is the rhinoceros, encompassing the white and black rhino species. Apart from differing facial features, the two species of African rhino are similar in height, averaging about 1.6m at the shoulder, but the Black Rhinoceros has roughly half the mass of a White Rhino, weighing in at a demure 1000 kg. The most noticeable difference between the two is that the White Rhinocerous has broad lips, while the Black variety has pointed lips.