Buffalo History

9 January 2018

At twilight, the bird flies back to the nest. Young men return from the fields to regain courage, a little boy is swimming and playing on the terraces in the middle of the village, elders gather vegetables along the fence to prepare the meal. The smoke from the firewood kitchen floats above the roof, a sign that the whole village has returned to life again. The sound of the buffalo’s wooden bell contrasts with the melody of the wind. The giddy children tease each other with the buffaloes. Some help guide the animals back into the stable. Nearby, a fire is set up with straw and rice husks to smoke out the mosquitoes and insects, so the buffaloes can sleep peacefully at night. The sky is dark. On the deck, the hurricane lamp glows in the midst, dinner is served. Parents and siblings sit around, eat and talk about the stories they encountered during the day before setting off for bed. This was the way of the rural people in the past.

From this account, we can see that the ‘buffalo‘ is an animal that is an integral part of the countryside lifestyle. Used as the main labour in agriculture but also in transportation. Harnessed to an artificial wagon for travelling around the farm, buffaloes help transport firewood and agricultural products. Rural people, therefore, praise the buffalo as a benefactor. This is reflected at the end of the sowing season, ploughing, planting, in a ‘Hong Kwan Kwai’ ritual to feed the buffalo and give him thanks. This special occasion commemorates the buffalo’s merit for helping on the farm, includes asking for forgiveness for any cursing or beatings while in use. Also, we do not kill the buffalo for his meat, we will feed him until old age, like being a beloved family member

Guests at our permaculture farm in Nan Province northern Thailand can learn more about Thai buffaloes when staying with us.

We have three young handsome buffaloes: Tony, William and ‘Rinda’, she has albino skin and is a representative of fertility and well-being. According to the beliefs of the ancient people, buffaloes like to live together in a crowd. They wander around together, sometimes dipping into water and diving to cool themselves off. Other times they may lie in the mud to hide from insects. Once the sun has weakened and the wind has started blowing, the buffaloes will come back up to the field to enjoy the grass.

Linda is one of our buffaloes and welcomes you at our permaculture farm DaiDib DaiDee in Pua district, Northern Thailand.

All over the land, our lush rice fields are filled with marks from the hooves of our three buffaloes. The buffalo is a clever animal that can be tamed and trained. Following traditional wisdom that exists in the community, buffaloes are trained and fed closely until they are familiar with people. They are kind and very docile, without a bad bone in their body they can easily be ridden.

To teach our buffaloes to carry a rake, plough and drag the wagon when used for transportation. The use of buffaloes to plough the land derives from rural wisdom which considers they are clean energy. They also greatly help save costs because, in addition to not having to spend money on oil or machinery, they produce organic waste that can be used as fertilizer in rice fields. Ploughing with the help of a buffalo is an art form. Before ploughing, the area must be surveyed in every direction and the farmer must know the condition and character of the buffalo in order to be able to successfully work with the animal.

Volunteers on our permaculture farm can learn the traditional Thai way of ploughing with a buffalo.

The day the world progressed in new technologies, society changes, including the agricultural systems that used buffalo to plough the land and drag carts. Machinery replaced buffalo labour for convenience increasing productivity in bulk. The sound of the wooden bells changed to that of the engine and the smell of smoke. The concrete road was laid out with large compact wheels and mechanical devices. The buffalo stable was abandoned or transformed into a house for tractor storage. The role and value of the buffalo disappeared from agriculture in the rice fields, he was sold to the market and sent to the slaughterhouse. Farmers no longer paid attention to proper buffalo raising resulting in the decline of the species. Today it is likely that buffaloes will be extinct from Thailand.

Go for a ride on a buffalo and enjoy the scenery of northern Thailand around our permaculture farm.

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We still want to see the flock of beautiful tusks standing in the middle of the fields next to the farmer. We still long to hear the sound of wooden bells floating around in the wind. I still want the children in the village to try to lie on the back of a buffalo comfortably as we do. We hope that our farm will be a learning centre for people to live with buffaloes in true rural fashion in the way of our ancestors. Staying here will never be lonely. Because there will be three of our buffaloes, Tony, William and Rinda, which allow us to take a shower, eat grass, soak in the swamp, or let us ride through the rice fields like in a retro movie scene. Including the practice of harnessing wagons, putting rakes and ploughing. We want everyone to come to try a life that is friendly and supportive of nature. Our garden still uses traditional farming methods to attain self-sufficiency and sustainable agriculture (Permaculture). We do not need a lot of worldly products, may the spiritual outcome from the experience on our farm be enough.

We welcome families at our permaculture farm for a buffalo cart ride.
Thai buffaloes are gentle animals, especially if you take them for a refreshing bath.
Giving the buffaloes a well deserved bath is part of the volunteers' daily activities at DaiDib DaiDee farm, Nan Province northern Thailand.

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