#219 Kalabaw

The kalabaw (English: carabao Malay: kerbau) is the Filipino farmer’s indispensable helping hand, a so-called ‘lowly beast of burden” that is identified with Philippine farm life and the countryside.

Carabaos, a domesticated subspecies of the water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) are native to Southeast Asia. Adult carabaos weigh 700 to 800 kilograms—almost 2,000 pounds—and have fairly long gray or black hair thinly covering their huge bodies (Wikipedia). Water buffalos have been domesticated in the Philippines as far back as pre-Hispanic times and carabao skin was once used extensively in the Philippines to create a variety of products, including the armor of pre-colonial Filipino warriors.

No Filipino countryside scene is complete without the carabao. The animals were also exported from the Philippines to Guam in the late 1600s during the Spanish colonial administration of Guam. They were used for farming and to pull carts. In the 1960s, carabao races were also a popular sport in the Philippines especially during fiestas, but the practice is rarely seen these days.

Although there is no ordinance designating the kalabaw as the country’s symbol, the beast is often portrayed or identified with Filipino resilience and nationhood and is often used or portrayed in postal stamps, coins, government seals and other logos.  In the late 1980s, the carabao puppet character Kardong Kalabaw became popular as a symbol of the Filipino people’s hard work and sense of industry.

Mabuhay ang kalabaw!


Filed under Animals, Traditions

2 responses to “#219 Kalabaw

  1. luisa

    yes, i love the kalabaw! i was able to ride on one when i was a child. 🙂

  2. Steve M. Suratos

    I just attended an Asian Festival in Reston, Virginia hosted by the Fil-Am community. They had a carabao (in paper mosaic) wherein they had a contest what name they will adopt for this year….and the winner is…..”PRINCE MASIPAG”. They will have to adopt a new name again next year. The Asian Festival is a yearly event wherein Asian countries take turn in hosting it.

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