Philippine Carabao - "Water Buffalo"

from Cebuano
This word originated in Philippines

What the ox was to the American pioneer, the carabao is to farmers of the Philippines. Gentle and slow, it is the engine for pulling plows and carts and vehicles for riding, and when its working days are over, it is a store of meat and hide.

The name carabao is unique to the Philippines, but the creature itself is not. Elsewhere English speakers call it by the generic name water buffalo. This animal is found in parts of Asia, from India eastward. It looks something like our cattle but has horns that curve back to form a crescent. It is a true buffalo, known to scientists as Bubalus bubalis, not the shaggy bison of North America.

In the Philippines, the carabao is central to play as well as work. Every May 15, for example, a carabao festival is held in the town of San Isidro. Farmers groom and dress their carabaos, bring them for a blessing to the church, and parade them through town. Although the animals are not particularly noted for their speed, the festival culminates with a carabao race across the fields. At the finish line, the carabao kneel and receive another blessing.

The name carabao comes from the Cebuano (or Visayan or Bisayan) language, a close relative of Tagalog, the dominant language of the Philippines. Cebuano apparently got the word from Malay. Like Tagalog, Cebuano is from the Western Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. It is spoken by some fifteen million people in the Philippines, about one-quarter of the population.


The carabao (Filipino: kalabaw; Malay: kerbau) or B. bubalis carabanesis is a domesticated subspecies of the water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) found in the Philippines, Guam, and various parts of Southeast Asia. Carabaos are highly associated with farmers, being the farm animal of choice for pulling the plow and the cart used to haul farm produce to the market.


Adults weigh seven to eight hundred kilograms—almost 2,000 pounds—and have fairly long gray or black hair thinly covering their huge bodies. They have a tuft of hair on their forehead, and at the tip of their tail. Normally, they are silent and docile, but they will give a trembling snort if they are surprised.

Both male and female have massive horns. Since the carabao has no sweat glands, it cools itself by lying in a waterhole or mud during the heat of the day. Mud, caked on to its body, also protects it from bothersome insects.

The carabao eats grass and other vegetation, feeding mainly in the cool of the mornings and evenings. In some places of the world the carabao is a source of milk just like the cow, or it may be slaughtered for its hide and its meat. Its life span is 18 to 20 years and the female carabao can deliver one calf each year.

Carabaos are indigenous to Southeast Asia; the carabaos were captured and domesticated as far back as pre-Hispanic times.

The carabao is considered a national symbol of the Philippines.

Also, the mascot of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Guyito,is a carabao.

Carabaos are often used by farmers in the Philippines to plow the fields and as a means of transportation. It is one of the most important animals in the country specially in agriculture.

In Guam

The carabao is also considered a national symbol of Guam. They were imported from the Philippines in the late 1600s during the Spanish colonial administration of Guam as a beast of burden and as a means of transportation. They were used for farming and to pull "carabao carts." As recently as the early 1960s, carabao races were a popular sport in the island, especially during fiestas.

Today, carabaos are a part of the popular culture in this American territory. A Christmas song called "Jungle Bells", sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells", makes reference to riding a "carabao cart today" instead of the "one-horse open sleigh" in the traditional song. Carabaos are often brought to carnivals or other festivities and used as a popular ride for kids. Their meat is sometimes eaten as a delicacy, although this is not common these days. Colorful, painted, fiberglass carabaos can be seen in the capital, Hagåtña, as well as other locations, such as the Guam Premier Outlets in Tamuning.

While carabaos were fairly common in Guam before the 1900s, with a population numbering in the thousands, today they are rare in most parts of the island. The exception is in the U.S. Naval Magazine in the village of Santa Rita, where the carabaos were protected from hunters as Naval Magazine is fenced on all sides. The carabao population of Naval Magazine has grown to several hundred, to the point that they have become a pest and cause environmental damage and pollute the Naval water supply in the Fena Resevoir. In 2003, the Navy, in a controversial move that was protested by many Chamorro people, began a program of extermination to control the carabao population of Naval Magazine.




Ayu said...

Very nice webbie! Definitely very useful to get overview of phillipines before visiting! a must read for travellers..!