Carabao, Bubalus bubalis carabanesis

The carabao (Bubalus bubalis carabanesis) is a subspecies of the domesticated water buffalo. It is also known as kalabaw in the Filipino language and the kerbau in the Malay language. It is native to Guam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and some areas of Southeast Asia. It is often associated with farmers because it is skilled in pulling plows and carts, allowing farmers to grow and transport crops easily. In some areas, it is killed for its meat and hide, and in other areas, it provides a source of milk.

The carabao can reach an average weight of nearly two thousand pounds, with long dark hair. It typically bares a tuft of fur on the tip of the tail and the forehead. Males and females have large horns. In order to keep its body temperature cool, the carabao will rest in a watering hole during the day. The mud also helps ward off biting insects. Because of this behavior, it can most often be seen consuming vegetation in the mornings and evening, when the weather is cooler. It has a typical lifespan between eighteen and twenty years.

In Guam, the carabao is recognized as a national symbol, and has been used in many activities since its arrival in the seventeenth century. It was even included in races in the 1960’s. It is sometimes considered a delicacy in its American range, and is often used in festivals as a ride for children. Although it was previously a common species in this area, it is now rare on much of the island. However, in Naval Magazine located in the village of Santa Rita, the carabao numbers in the hundreds. It has become somewhat of a pest in that area, and even though it was protected in the village by law, the Navy passed an initiative to hunt it.

In the Philippines, the carabao occurs in large numbers, where it has been since the pre-Hispanic times. In this area, it is a common farm animal. Its hide was often used for armor, among other things, during the pre-colonial Filipino wars.  During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines between the years of 1941 and 1945, nearly seventy percent of carabao were killed in order to stop the Filipinos from producing rice. Some farmers still use the old methods of farming rice, where soil is softened and worked by carabao that stomp the mud to make the rice seeds palatable.  Because of this laborious process, the carabao puppet character Kardong Kalabaw became a symbol of the hardworking Filipinos. In Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, the carabao is the official animal.

Image Caption: A carabao in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines. Credit: Mike Gonzalez/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)