The Water Buffalo is a member of the bovine family that is commonly seen in the landscapes of Southeast Asia. Wild Water Buffalo are found in Asia and South America and are the originators of the domestic stock living today. While wild-living populations exist in many Southeast Asian countries, these are believed to be feral domesticated animals or domesticated animals mixed with wild descendants. Wild water buffalo populations are sparse and it is thought that no purebred wild water buffalo exist.
There are different types of water buffalo. The water buffalo found in Southeast Asian, China and India are generally smaller than buffalo found in other parts of the world. Water buffalo vary in height, length, skin type, horns, hair and ears.
Thai water buffalo are wide backed and have large, protruding bellies. They have a large boned frame with long legs and a fairly long neck. The head is small in comparison to the body. Horns protrude from the head that curve out and upward. Adult water buffalo range in size from 300-600 kilograms.
Buffaloes are used primarily as draught animals. Years ago in Thailand, they were used to pull bullock carts and plow rice fields. Water buffalo have strong flat hooves which enable them to walk through the sticky mud in the rice paddies. Buffalo products such are meat and milk are used as well . The water buffalo also produces copious amounts of dung which is used as fertilizer and as a fuel when dried. There are also annual water buffalo races in Chonburi and some Southern islands have water buffalo fights.
As a large rice producing country, Thailand formerly had the highest water buffalo population until the last decade. This is the result of motor driven tillers or “mechanical buffalo” have replaced the water buffaloes work in many rice paddies. This machine is a small, hand guided tractor with large paddles on its wheels. Although there numbers are diminishing, they can still be found in Thailand’s countryside.
The Buffalo Villages Project is found in Suphanburi. Many water buffaloes are kept at the village. The project was created to help conserve and develop the Thai water buffalo, as well as to remember the value of the buffalo to Thai farmers. The 70 rai center features a water buffalo show, several varieties of buffalo including albinos and dwarfs, a traditional Thai village, display of ancient farming techniques, Baan Thai resort, ostriches and native birds.
Buffalo Villages is located off of Highway 340, the main route through Sriprajan Subdistrict and Suphanburi Province. It operates from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily. Admission for adults is 20 baht and for children it is 10 baht.
Water buffalo are called “kwai” in Thai. It is extremely rude to refer to a person as a “kwai” because water buffalo have a reputation for being stupid and stubborn.