Laos Water Buffalo

Laos Water Buffalo, Southeast Asia, 1968, this was taken almost 40 years ago, photograph by Wilbur E. Garrett.


A herd of water buffalo charges down a dirt road in rural Laos. In Laos, one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, domesticated water buffalo are used for their meat, hides, and milk, and also for plowing and transportation.

(Photograph shot on assignment for, but not published in, “The Mekong: River of Terror and Hope,” December 1968, National Geographic magazine) Source.

In 1975 the communist took over Laos, hundreds of thousands of Laotians fled our homeland as refugees to our neighboring countries, one being Thailand, and then immigrated to various parts of the world. As I recalled while living at the Camp in Thailand before coming to the US, my parents and others had to answer a series of questions as to their profession whilst living in Laos, and of course as we all know that Laos is a predominately majority agriculture country therefore many are farmers. As farmers, one had to own water buffalo(es) for plowing the land for farming, and one of the questions that were asked was, ‘How many teeth does a water buffalo have on top and bottom?’ I think it doesn’t take a genius to answer this question, but it does take a real farmer because most of us don’t pay much attention to water buffaloes even when they’re smiling at us.

Laos water buffalo photo by Solene and Kevin

See what I’m talking about, of course those that lied about being farmers didn’t pass and this delayed their getting acceptance to the US, and other counties as well. Most people just assumed that water buffaloes have a full set of teeth on top and bottom, but the ones in Laos’s only have teeth on the bottom, please correct me if yours have teeth on top 😉 .

Laos buffalo photo by Natmanda.

Laos water buffalo photo by Vondelskater

My parents weren’t farmers in Laos, but we were farmers whilst living in Thailand, we lived there for 5 years. When I was little, one of my jobs was to help take care of the buffaloes when I’m not in school; we had two, one black named Khoon (means reliable,) and the other blond named Pierk (means blond.) When they were not working, you can say that we went on a little adventure, it was me and my younger sister riding on their backs. They were great swimmers, they took us across the river as both of us couldn’t swim, then into the jungle and stayed there for many hours. Thinking back now, we were less than 10 years old at the time but we were mature enough and were trusted to care for the water buffaloes, looking back, I often wondered if we cared for them, or them for us.

Laos kid photo by Mvsaur
Laos working buffalo photo by a of doom

When they’re working, they worked hard, but many water buffaloes in Laos are being replaced by tractors as Lao people called it steel buffalo.

Laos ricefields photo by vondelskater

Water Buffaloes are color blind, at least that’s what I was told when I was little, therefore it’s not wise to wear bright color clothing around them, if you don’t want to get chased by one that is.

Laos buffaloes photo by gredavisphotographyco-m

These buffaloes were from the Northern part of Laos, you might think that they are taking a mud bath, but this photo tells me something different. We used to let our buffaloes sleep in mud puddle that was near the deck, it served two purposes, one was to keep them from getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and other insects, and another was to keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter, sort of a mud blanket. My sisters would take them to a nearby river every morning for their morning bath.

Below are beautiful photos of water buffalo from a Thai Lakorn Nang Tad, taken from Darly’s post Nang Tad Favorite Photos.



When you do visit Laos, please keep a look out for the buffaloes.

Laos buffaloes photo by H Neu
Laos captial city 94km photo by Petebrook


Today Laos is one of the 53 places to go in 2008, Laos is shaping up to be Indochina’s next hot spot. Ancient sites like the Wat Phou temple complex and the capital city of Vientiane are drawing culture seekers. Luxury teak houseboats are cruising down the Mekong. And global nomads are heading to Luang Prabang to sample the Laotian tasting menu at 3 Nagas or hang out by the infinity pool at the seriously upscale Résidence Phou Vao.


  1. What a coincident, our buffalo was also named Khoon. I wasn’t old enough to have experiences with them. I think water buffaloes need us as much as we need them. I’d never met a person who’d never had great memories while growing up with one.

  2. Those pictures reminded me so much of our farm in Laos. I remembered walking behind my uncle while he was plowing the rice patties, and riding on the back of the water buffalo afterward. Later we would plant the rice, knee deep in the mud and water, but enjoying the day as each rice stalk was geometrically put down into the mud until the whole rice patty became satiated. I remembered also how the water buffalo, after their plowings and if the day was hot, would find themselves a water hole to wallowed in the mud before going off in the distant horizon to graze on fresh, green grass. I believe these memories of gentler days will remain with me for many years to come

    It would be nice to go back to Laos for a visit, but these memories will have to suffice for the moment. Being too nostalgia is not good for the health, sometimes.

  3. I don’t know enough about my roots (shame on me, I know) but I will definitely keep an eye out for posts like this to keep me intrigued. I love it all. And keep up the good work! You’re awesome. 🙂

  4. Sim, I knew you named your car and tools Khoon, but didn’t know you named them after your buffalo in Laos 🙂 . If I didn’t have a chance to live in Thailand, then I wouldn’t have all these experiences, I was young then but I think it’s a valuable lesson for our family, and having a good memory really helps. One of my co-workers was laughing at me for writing about this but I think it tells a lot about whom we are.

    >>Being too nostalgia is not good for the health, sometimes.

    Bob, why did you think being too nostalgia is not good for our health, I always thought it’s good for our health and soul, sort of saving it for the raining day.

    I think it’s great that you still have those childhood memories as for many people that left Laos at a young age have a hard time recalling small details. I think it would be good for you to go back, for all of us that left there at a young age to go back and visit.

    Hi Miss Phom, no need to be ashamed as to not knowing enough about your roots, your interest in wanting to know and learn means much more IMO. Thanks for a nice comment and your visit. 🙂

  5. There’s a difference between being nostalgic and being too nostalgic. 😉 Being too nostalgic is common among those who were born in Laos, especially among males. They can go into a deep depression when the times are tough (like the national credit crisis today.) My mother told me of a flat fish that, when eaten, could erase deeper memories. I don’t think this is a mercury contaminated fish. I also don’t want to eat it. 🙂

  6. Sim, sounds like a discussion we had with Sam at the old LP forum, I guess being too nostalgic is not good then if it’s going to lead to depression, I think too much of anything is not good; moderation might be the key to happiness. 🙂 Thanks for the explanation.

  7. Michael, thanks for the invite and visit, and also confirmation of their teeth. I’m surprised to learn that there is a water buffalo forum, very interesting site and will definitely check it out.

  8. […] the owner asked me if I have ever rode one before, I said no, but I had experiences riding a water buffalo when I was little.  Everyone started laughing, I looked around and didn’t think it was funny, […]

  9. Will be looking to get a few water buffalo for my new farm in another year or so. Am located in central Florida, west coast … hope to hear from someone. Can contact me at

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