The water buffalo is an animal resource whose potential seems to have been barely recognized or examined outside of Asia. Throughout the world there are proponents and enthusiasts for the various breeds of cattle; the water buffalo, however, is not a cow and it has been neglected. Nevertheless, this symbol of Asian life and endurance has performed notably well in recent trials in such diverse places as the United States, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Brazil. In Italy and Egypt as well as Bulgaria and other Balkan states the water buffalo has been an important part of animal husbandry for centuries. In each of these places certain herds of water buffalo appear to have equaled or surpassed the local cattle in growth, environmental tolerance, health, and the production of meat and calves.
Although these are empirical observations lacking painstaking, detailed experimentation, they do seem to indicate that the water buffalo could become an important resource in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate zones in developing and developed countries.
If this is the case, then it is clear that many countries should begin water buffalo research. Serious attention by scientists could help dispel the misperceptions and uncertainties surrounding the animal and encourage its true qualities to emerge.
This report describes the water buffalo's attributes as perceived by several animal scientists. It is designed to present the apparent strengths of buffaloes compared with those of cattle, to introduce researchers and administrators to the animal's potential, and to identify priorities for buffalo research and testing.
The panel that produced this report met at Gainesville, Florida, in July 1979. It was composed of leading water buffalo experts (particularly those from outside Asia who have directed the beginnings of water buffalo industries in their countries) and leading American animal scientists, many of whom are also familiar with the animal.
This report complements The Husbandry and Health of the Domestic Buffalo, edited by W. Ross Cockrill and published in 1974 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Cockrill's 933-page book is a "bible" of water buffalo knowledge and provides details of breeds, world distribution, physiology, and an extensive bibliography.
The present report is an introduction to the water buffalo and its potential. It is written particularly for decision makers, as well as scholars or students, in the hope that it will stimulate their interest in the animal and thereby increase the appreciation of, and funding for, buffalo research. The report includes much empirical observation, largely from the panel members. Some of these observations may, in the long run, prove not to be universally applicable. Much benchmark information needs to be obtained.
Since its creation in 1971, the Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation (ACTI) has investigated innovative ways to use current technology and resources to help developing countries. Often this has meant taking a fresh look at some neglected and unappreciated plant or animal species. The committee assembles ad hoc panels of experts (usually incorporating both skeptics and proponents) to scrutinize the topics selected. The panel reports serve to draw attention to neglected, but promising, technologies and resources. (For a list of ACTI reports, see page 115.) ACTI reports are provided free to developing countries under funding by the Agency for International Development (AID).
Program costs for this study were provided by AID'S Office of Agriculture, Development Support Bureau, and staff support was provided by the Office of Science and Technology, Development Support Bureau.
The final draft of this report was edited and prepared for publication by F. R. Ruskin. Bibliographic editing was by Wendy D. White. Cover art was by Deborah Hanson.