Scientific Name: Bubalus bubalis Linnaeus, 1758
Common English Name: Swamp Buffalo or Water Buffalo
Local Name: Kalabaw (Tagalog); Karabaw (Visayan)
Distribution: Africa, Australia, Europe, and Northern Asia, Oceania, South America, and Southern Asia.
A new exhibition at the National Museum of Natural History located in a niche at the stairs’ landing on the 5th level is a family of carabaos from Nueva Ecija that was especially prepared by the museum’s taxidermists and scientists.
Carabaos or swamp buffaloes are large mammals with grey to dark grey color. Adult carabaos weigh from 400 to 500 kilos. They have horns that curve backward forming a letter “C”.
Carabaos symbolize the Asian way of life and were introduced in the Philippines around 300 BC by Malay and Chinese settlers. In the rural areas, they are very valuable in agriculture. Their heavy build is well suited for the hard labor in the rice fields. They serve as “living tractors” that help farmers in plowing and harrowing the muddy rice paddies.
Economically, carabaos are a major contributor to the Philippine agriculture. They also provide meat and dairy products, hide, sustainable farming, and transportation in remote rural areas in the Philippines. In some northern communities in the mountain regions of Luzon, they are part of prestige feasts that validate the social status of the upper rank. Rituals such as weddings, healing or other rites of passage allow heads of slaughtered carabaos to be displayed prominently as part of offerings to spirits.
In some rural towns in the Philippine lowlands, a carabao festival is held during May to pay tribute to the patron saint of Filipino farmers, Saint Isidore, and the hard-working carabaos as well.
Although they are well adapted to hot and humid weather, they are also vulnerable to thermal stress. To cool off and reduce heat, carabaos often dip in the river or wallow in the mud. They also coat their huge body with mud to protect them from heat and insect bites.