It’s ‘kalabaw,’ not buffalo—scientists | Inquirer News

It’s ‘kalabaw,’ not buffalo—scientists

/ 03:54 AM March 29, 2015

cart0329SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Philippines—What’s in a name? Is the national animal, which goes by the name “kalabaw,” synonymous to the carabao and the water buffalo?

To the scientific world, a carabao is a water buffalo—the sort that lives in tropical swampland.


But for many farmers, the carabao or kalabaw in the vernacular is the country’s native farm help while the buffalo is a purebred import that they use to crossbreed livestock for milk or meat.

Getting the names right is important to the government, which promotes carabao development in the country, Dr. Arnel del Barrio, executive director of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) here, said during a program on the 22nd founding anniversary of the agency on Friday.


Del Barrio said the debate had fueled public confusion. In the burgeoning carabao-based industries, the market offers “gatas ng kalabaw” (carabao milk) alongside “gatas ng buffalo” (buffalo milk) and “karne ng kalabaw” (carabao meat), he said.

The name carabao may have roots in “kerbau,” the Malaysian and Indonesian name for the buffalo. Kerbau is also a Visayan or Cebuano term.

Common term

“We agreed to promote only one term, kalabaw in Tagalog or carabao in English,” Del Barrio told reporters here.

For years, kalabaw has been the common term for the farm animal. The confusion began when the Philippine Carabao Act of 1992 (Republic Act No. 7307) was enacted, requiring the enforcement of the Carabao Development Program.

The program highlights the need to upgrade the breed of carabaos through crossbreeding with river buffalos to produce buffalos more suited for the dairy and meat industries.

Learn to differentiate


Soon, farmers were tending to the hulking, dark-colored and flared-horned animals, which were imported and which they learned to differentiate from carabaos by referring to them exclusively as buffalos.

According to the PCC, the carabao is one of three types of Asian buffalos. The two others are the “tamaraw,” the country’s pride, which thrives on Mindoro island, and the Indian wild buffalo, which has been domesticated and has also found its way to the Philippines.


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TAGS: “Kalabaw, buffalo, carabao, Carabao Development Program, Carabao Milk, Dr. Arnel del Barrio, national animal, PCC, Philippine Animals, Philippine Carabao Act of 1992, Philippine Carabao Center, Republic Act No. 7307, water buffalo
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