Selecting a South African animal to represent Enneagram Sixes was the biggest challenge of all because Sixes are so complex, phobic Sixes are so different from counter-phobic Sixes and most of all, I have a Six brother to whom I am accountable for all things Six I write. Given this dilemma, I am happy to say that I found an animal that I think represents some of the most salient characteristics of Sixes, no matter how the Six deals with fear or how complex he or she is. My nomination is the Cape Buffalo.
Owing to its unpredictable nature that makes it highly dangerous to humans, it has not been domesticated, unlike its Asian counterpart, the domestic Asian water buffalo. They are unpredictable and can be particularly dangerous if cornered or wounded. Though they have been known to ambush men and are often accused of deliberate savagery, they are usually placid if left alone.The front hooves of the buffalo are wider than the rear, which is associated with the need to support the weight of the front part of the body, which is more powerful than the back. A characteristic feature of them is the fact that the adult bull’s horns have fused bases, forming a continuous bone shield referred to as a “boss,” which cannot always be penetrated even by a rifle bullet. Sight and hearing are both rather poor, but scent is well developed in buffaloes.
Cape Buffalo are susceptible to many diseases including Bovine tuberculosis, Corrider disease, and Foot and Mouth disease. As with many diseases, these problems will remain dormant within a population as long as the health of the animals is good.
Enneagram Commentary: Unpredictable, potentially dangerous, very strong in the front but a little weaker from behind, and susceptible to disease; all of these characteristics describe Sixes. A highly reactive style, Enneagram Sixes are unpredictable in their reactions and behavior; often, the predictable aspect of Sixes is that they will have a reaction. Sixes don’t necessarily perceive themselves as unpredictable, but I suggest they might ask others near them what they think! And sometimes their reactions are so strong, they can feel a bit dangerous. In addition, many Sixes appear strong upfront, but more wobbly from behind or underneath their shows of strength. Finally, I have noticed that many Sixes (of course, not all) do tend to worry a lot about their own health issues and, as we all know, stress, which many Sixes experience as a result of their more chronic anxiety, makes us more susceptible to illness.
African buffalo make various vocalizations. Many calls are similar to those of domestic cattle, but are generally of a lower pitch. Buffalo emit low-pitched 2-4 seconds calls repeated at 3-6 second intervals to signal the herd to move. To signal to the herd to change direction, leaders will emit “gritty,” “creaking gate” sounds.Extended maaa calls are made by one to a few individuals up to 20 times a minute before and during movements to drinking places.
When being aggressive, buffalo make explosive grunts that may be extended into a sequence or become a rumbling growl. Cows emit croaking calls when looking for their calves. Calves will make a similar call of a higher pitch when in distress. When threatened by predators, buffalo make drawn out waaaa calls. Dominant individuals make calls to announce their presence and location. A more intense version of the same call is emitted as a warning to an encroaching animal.When grazing, buffalo will make various sounds such as brief bellows, grunts, honks and croaks.
Enneagram Commentary: Look at the picture of those sweet, docile looking Cape Buffalo. While on safari, we heard very few sounds coming from them, but the ones we did hear sounded like sweet cow-sounds, and Sixes can be very sweet. Their other vocalizations sound like distress calls, and this is also Six-like. Most Sixes have rather kind voices – as if they would cause no harm – and the other vocalizations from Sixes are primarily in the area of stress and distress, as they express their concerns and anxieties.
The herd is vital to the Cape Buffalo, and herd size is highly variable. Buffaloes can live in herds of a few hundred, but have been known to congregate in thousands. The basic herd consists of related females and their offspring, in an almost linear dominance hierarchy, but also includes sub-herds of subordinate males, high-ranking males and females and old or invalid animals. The young males keep their distance from the dominant bull, who is recognizable by the thickness of his horns. Without the protection of the herd, many of these lone bulls fall prey to lions.
When chased by predators, a herd will stick close together and make it hard for the predators to pick off one member. Calves are gathered in the middle. A buffalo herd will respond to the distress call of a captured member and try to rescue it. A calf’s distress call will get the attention of not only the mother but also the entire herd.
Remarkably, there are few scuffles between herd members, perhaps the large males with their strong curved horns realize they could seriously injure one another in a brawl. Males will fight for dominance, but the battles are brief. Adult bulls will spar in play, dominance interactions or actual fights. A bull will approach another lowing with his horns down and wait for the other bull to do the same thing.
During the wet season, the younger bulls rejoin a herd to mate with the females. They stay with them throughout the season to protect the calves. Some older bulls cease to rejoin the herd, as they can no longer compete with the younger, more aggressive males. Males have a linear dominance hierarchy that is based on age and size. Since a buffalo is safer when a herd is larger, dominant bulls may rely on subordinate bulls and sometimes tolerate their copulation.African buffalo are notable for their apparent altruism: an animal sacrifices its own well-being for the benefit of another animal or the group. Female buffalo appear to exhibit some sort of “voting behavior”. During resting time, the females will stand up shuffle around and sit back down again. They will sit in the direction they think that they should move. After an hour of more shuffling, the females will travel in the direction they decide on. This decision is communal and not based on hierarchy or dominance.
Enneagram Commentary: What could be more Six-like than the protection of the herd, even to the extent where a dominant male will tolerate the copulation of a less-dominant male. Now, that is true loyalty to the group, putting protection above ego. And many Sixes will do that as well – that is, putting loyalty higher on the value chain than ego-gratification. Then there’s the aspect of Cape Buffalo that has to do with altruism. Self-sacrifice on behalf of another member of the tribe is also quite common in Sixes.
Finally, there is the communality and vigilance of Cape Buffalo herds. When we were on safari, whether day or night, they were in humongous herds and always hyper-alert to where our open-air land vehicle was in relation to them (and there were a lot of them). Whenever we were closer than their comfort, the entire herd would suddenly move all at once, mobilizing as a group to a safer location. As an aside, we were warned in safari camp that almost every animal we might encounter on the path would stop if we stood still, did not make direct eye contact and if possible, slowly moved under a building or roof area. However, with the Cape Buffalo, we were warned to get out of there as soon and quickly as possible, because they would charge us no matter what or where. My experience with Sixes is that when they become really angry, they are much scarier than any Eight!