Water Buffalos in Vietnam




In Vietnam, the water buffalo is a man’s best friend. Water buffaloes play important roles in Vietnam. As such, water buffaloes are considered sacred animals in Vietnam! Water buffaloes feature prominently in the economic, social and cultural lives of the Vietnamese people . Here are some interesting water buffalo facts:


Water buffalo: History and Legend

During the historical period of Chinese domination, the Chinese introduced water buffaloes in Vietnam to increase crop yields. Since then, many stories have sprouted around the water buffalo.

One notable story was how a deity tasked his subordinate to sow cereal seeds and grass seeds in the Vietnam fields to help the people. However, the deity’s subordinate sowed the seeds in the wrong order and Vietnam was covered with so much grass! The people complained to the heavens and the deity’s subordinate was condemned to become a water buffalo in Vietnam where he had to munch on grass all day long to pay for his mistake.

The water buffalo was commonly associated with Vietnamese heroes and thus became symbols of bravery. Dinh Bo Linh, the first Vietnamese emperor after the liberation of Vietnam from Chinese rule, was known to be a water buffalo shepherd.


Children playing with water buffalo in Vietnam


Water buffalo: the king of the industry

Farmers in Vietnam cannot do without their buffaloes! There is a famous Vietnamese proverb which says that a water buffalo helps a Vietnamese farmer to marry his wife, buy a house. Also, a Vietnamese already form a deep bond with his or her water buffalo companions since young. This bond is treated as the working of fate which brought buffalo and human together. This is no surprise as the water buffalo helps the Vietnamese farmer to carry out many functions in the fields such as transporting, plowing, and removing potential predators. Water buffaloes were treated as part of the family. During the Vietnam war, an American marine was surprised that “a 100 pound woman could restrain a 2000 pound buffalo intent on ripping him to shreds”!


Water buffalo in the market


Farmers received rental payments from their stock of water buffaloes.  Water buffaloes were prized as the sale of these buffaloes in the market can help farmers in Vietnam to earn much more money, which is then used to buy necessities.

With the introduction of farming machinery, many thought that the water buffalo will be made obsolete. However, water buffaloes are still used as the use of machinery such as the tractor was expensive. Also, water buffaloes can plough through wet fields and plantations which cannot be done by modern machines.


Water buffalo and the cultural life of the Vietnamese:

Besides helping Vietnam to profit, water buffaloes plays significant social and cultural roles in Vietnam.

The buffalo was selected as the mascot of the 22nd SEA Games which was held in Vietnam in 2003. This is because the water buffalo represents friendliness, harmony, hard work, happiness, strength, and unity, values which are entrenched in the people of Vietnam.


Water Buffalo mascot in 2003 SEA Games



Farmers in Vietnam also conduct buffalo sacrifice ceremonies with traditional music and dance, to pay tribute to the deities. You may wonder why this is so as water buffaloes are after all revered in Vietnam. However, such ceremonies are held to pay tribute to the water buffaloes by outlining the bond between people and nature! The person who can kill the water buffalo with only a single stab receives high praise and honour. The water buffalo meat will be shared among the villages in communal houses. The horns of the water buffalo will be hung on walls or made into ornamentals.


Water buffalo sacrifice in Vietnam   Stir Fried Water Buffalo meat with spinach


Due to the introduction of the water buffalo in Vietnam, men in Vietnam became more important as they participated in ploughing the fields and manning livestock. This resulted in a patriarchal society in Vietnam as men were favored for their labour in agricultural production.


The water buffalo has certainly become a cultural institution of Vietnam. Technological advancement may have reduced the tangible role played by the water buffaloes in the rice fields. However, the water buffalo still remains an important cultural and social identity to the Vietnamese.  Without the trusted water buffaloes, we will not be able to enjoy delicious rice cakes, pho and La Saigon’s roasted chicken and pork rice dishes!

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