The Vietnamese water buffalo belongs to the type of swamp buffalo which is characterized by a dull gray skin, short and stiff hair, an average height of about seven feet and weight about 250 - 500 kg. A fun fact is that the animal has no upper teeth, instead they had a dental pad at the upper jaw which is suitable for their chewing habit. The water buffalo in Vietnam plays an important role not only in the culture but also in the daily life of Vietnamese people.
I - Vietnamese water buffalo in culture
With an economy strongly associated with wet-rice agriculture, Vietnamese folks take the buffalo as a kind friend. With the gentleness, harduousity, and toughness, it is likened to an unofficial symbol of the Vietnamese farmer. Water buffalo in Vietnam is also a loyal and affectionate animal that no matter how long the distance is, they always remember their boss; no matter how far they walk away, they still know how to come back home. Moreover, the feature of this cattle is absolutely similar to the tendency of Vietnam's development, slowness but firmness, taking virtues such as kindness, harmony, candidness, hard-working, faithfulness, and resilience as foundations of the social ethics.
Buffalo in traditional culture & art - Source: baoquocte
Water buffalo in Vietnamese culture is also reflected in the 12 Zodiacs theory. In which, the Vietnamese water buffalo is one of 12 Zodiacs in the culture of Vietnam, along with China, Japan, Korea, North Korea, and some other countries in Asia. It is associated with Ox, the second in line, behind Rat and before 10 other animals. The 12 symbols are divided into 2 poles, Yin (cold) and Yang (hot); and Buffalo accordingly belongs to the latter, therefore, people born in the year of Ox are expected to be independent, strong, industrious, and honest.
The image of water buffalo in Vietnam is popularly found in the literature and art of Vietnam, especially folk songs and folk sayings. The Vietnamese people have a popular saying to name out big targets that a man needs to accomplish in life related to Vietnamese water buffalo: “buying buffalo, getting married, building a house”, of which “buying buffalo” is another word for having a stable job. Because it is strongly connected to the work on rice fields, this animal is an implication for the peace of homeland, memories of childhood, and life without the sound of guns and bullets.
Because of a variety of meanings, when Vietnam was the host country of the SEA Games 22, the golden Vietnamese buffalo was chosen as the mascot of this regional sports event. The image of the golden buffalo is a manifestation of the wish for a good crop, happiness, power and the martial art of the nation.
II - Vietnamese water buffalo in the daily life of the locals
1 - Buffalo power
Buffalo in daily life of Vietnamese farmers - Source: Chử Hoàng Hải
During wartime, buffalo had an enormous contribution to the success of the Vietnamese revolution against powerful invaders. They could carry heavy loads of food and armor for soldiers. Vietnamese buffalo were enthusiastic and durable supporters, accompanying the military force through high mountains and deep rivers.
In agricultural manufacturing, the buffalo helps farmers pull plows in the rice fields. Although there have been several modern vehicles and equipment invented to carry out this task, in several parts of Vietnam, especially the mountainous areas, rice terraces make it difficult for automation to be applied, and Vietnamese water buffalo are still the main laborers.
2 - Vietnamese buffalo meat
Compared to beef, buffalo meat is softer and less stinky, and very nutrient-rich. Vietnamese buffalo meat can be processed into many different dishes, of which the most famous is “buffalo meat upstairs kitchen”, a specialty of Sapa town. Besides, stir-fried buffalo meat, stewed buffalo meat and braised buffalo meat are some good ideas for your dinner.
3 - Buffalo skin
Little do people know that in Vietnamese water buffalo skin has good effects on relieving pain, stopping bleeding and aiding digestion. The skin soaked in water, cut into pieces, mixed with ginger juice, boiled until it turns into a condensed solution, then let cool and applied on pain, can significantly reduce the unpleasant feeling. The buffalo skin glue is an effective medicine to treat breast aching. In addition, Vietnamese buffalo skin is an indispensable material to make drums, specifically the surface of the drum. In comparison with the skin of other cattles like cows, goats, sheep, and buffalo is more sustainable and gives out a better sound.
4 - Vietnamese water buffalo horn
Because the inside of buffalo horn is void, it is taken advantage of to produce Tuwa, an essential instrument in the festivals and rituals of the groups of ehtnic minority in the Central Highland of Vietnam. Besides, it is also manufactured to produce quite a number of souvenirs and decoration items, for example combs, necklace, bracelet, spoon, fork, bowl, belt, arts,...
5 - Buffalo shit
It may sound a bit “dirty” but the dung of buffalo in Vietnam is an ideal supply of food for vegetation. From the early time, Vietnamese farmers collected the animal shit in a close container and brewed it for a particular time to create a “green compose” for the crop. This method is still maintained up until now even when chemical fertilizers and synthesized fertilizers are mass produced.
III - Vietnamese water buffalo fighting festival
A buffalo fighting festival in Vietnam
Buffalo fighting festival - Source: qdnd
The Do Son buffalo fighting festival in Hai Phong city is the largest and most notorious in Vietnam. There hasn’t been any official information about the time it was first held but this festival is an integral part of the local tradition. The festival of fighting buffalo in Vietnam is strongly connected to the worship of Sea God because the shape of the buffalo horn has many things in common with the crescent moon which is said to have an influence on the tide. The indigenous people believe that letting a couple of horns collide is a way to express their wish for a safe sea voyage. The winning buffalo will be killed to sacrifice for the god. Although Vietnamese water buffalo fighting has evoked great controversy over the cruelty toward a kind and friendly animal like this, it partly embodies how significant the buffalo is to the humans of Vietnam.
- Time: August 9 of the lunar calendar annually
- Location: Do Son district, Hai Phong city
With the strong bond between the Vietnamese and the cattle, Localtravelidea believes that Vietnamese water buffalo will continue to be a good partner of the native people, much as everything can change. As long as you think of the S-shaped strip of land, you will picture the image of a creature much larger and stronger than human beings but is very tame and amicable to us.