Water Buffaloes

March 2017


When traveling in the rural parts of Thailand you will see them: water buffaloes, grazing in the rice fields after the harvest or along the roads before the harvests.


There are two recognized types of water buffalo, the river buffalo of South Asia and the swamp buffalo of Southeast Asia. So the buffaloes here are swamp buffaloes.

Water Buffaloes

The swamp buffalo was domesticated about 4000 years ago in China while the river buffalo may have been domesticated in India already about 5000 years ago. Water buffalo have been traded for thousands of years.


There are a couple of small herds of wild water buffaloes in Thailand. However they are different from the domesticated breeds.


It is estimated that there are at least 130 million domestic water buffalo worldwide. Currently there are about 1 million water buffaloes in Thailand with the majority of them kept in Issan, the Northeast. The average weight is between 300 and 550 kg. Water buffalo used to plough the rice fields, but this is done almost exclusively by machinery. People still keep them and some of them are very proud and attached to their buffaloes.


The owner of this cow was particularly proud of her and told me many times that this is HIS buffalo.

In most countries water buffaloes are being kept for the production of dairy products like water buffalo milk butter fermented milk soft and hard cheeses. There is only one of such farms in Thailand. Thais are very superstitious. Most of them would not consume water buffalo milk, fearing it would make them "stupid" as they think buffaloes are.


In the mornings they are being let to the grazing pasture of the day. Some people watch them during the day, others just let them walk. Thai law allows owners of cows or buffaloes to let them graze on everyones farmland after the harvest or as long as there aren’t any crops on the fields. If not watched they can wander off and may damage trees and all plants they can reach. They even ate the leaves of palm trees on my land. In the evenings they are either picked up by their owner or they wander home alone.

Sometimes you can watch two groups of buffaloes face each other over the best grazing area, but I haven't seen a physical fight. They also can been seen running through the fields.


A bath on the way home...

They always stop and stare at you...

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink

(c) Karl Stellbrink