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.
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 😉 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.