Home Culture Vietnam festivals The buffalo in the Vietnamese life

The buffalo in the Vietnamese life

The buffalo has long played a vital role in the lives of the Vietnamese. It is also considered an emblematic animal for the Vietnamese, it is still used in field work and preferred to machines. Indeed, the Vietnamese peasant appreciates his hard work and tranquility. It is perfectly suited for working in a humid and rugged environment. The image of the buffalo appears in all aspects of life, becoming a cultural and sacred symbol of the Vietnamese people.

Vietnamese boy keeps the buffaloes
The boy keeps the buffaloes

An interesting tale about the buffalo in Vietnam

Formerly, in order to help the peasants, the Emperor of Heaven sent a genius to earth with two different bags, one containing cereal grains to create food for humans and the other filled with herb seeds for animals. According to the instructions, cereal grains should be sown first, and then grass seeds. However, because of his negligence and impatience, the genius first sowed the seeds of the herbs. Herbs have grown too fast, and cereal seeds cannot grow.

The genius decided to hide his mistake from the Emperor of Heaven, but it wasn’t long before humans began to complain about the lack of food and the Emperor of Heaven learned that it was the genius’s fault. Despite a tolerant heart, the Emperor of Heaven decides to turn the genius into a buffalo to eat grass and work hard to help people. It is a way to atone for his mistake he made.

The characteristics of buffaloes

The differences between buffaloes and cows

Although cows can pull from plows, buffaloes are more commonly used for a few reasons. Compared to cows, water buffaloes have a larger and stronger body. They can withstand deep water, marshy terrain even bad weather while cows are not able to adapt to all conditions. In addition, cows are afraid of water, so they cannot work in flooded rice fields in Vietnam.

Why does the buffalo love water?

Buffalo is found in tropical and subtropical regions. In these regions, the temperature is very high, summer can reach 39 degrees C, while buffalo skin is very thick, sweat glands do not develop. For this reason, sweat can not escape, the buffalo can not use this method to cool the body. So when the temperature exceeds 30 degrees, especially after ploughing the fields, their body temperature rises, buffaloes need to immerse themselves in water.

Vietnamse buffalo bathes in the field
Buffalo bathes in the field

The buffalo – an inseparable companion of the peasants

Vietnam is known as a country of agriculture, so ploughing is very important. In the past, when modern technologies were not developed in Vietnam, the buffalo was used as a useful tool to help people perform hard work. Thanks to their health and diligence, buffaloes were one of the indispensable companions, becoming an important part of the daily life of peasants. The image of the “buffalo passes first, the plow follows” or the image of a buffalo nibbling grass on the lawn have become familiar and symbolic images for the rustic countryside, evoking a sense of serenity in the Vietnamese countryside.

The buffalo in cultural and spiritual life

In addition to helping farmers in production. The buffalo is also an image with spiritual significance linked to the gods, a symbol of hope for prosperity that expresses human aspirations and the wish for a peaceful life.

Buffaloes in the holidays

The Buffalo Stabbing Party

A scene in the buffalo stabbing party in Vietnam
A scene in the buffalo stabbing party

The festival takes place every year being a crucial part of the spiritual life of the Central Highlands. The buffalo stabbing party has two main purposes. The first is to show people’s respect for Yang (heaven), to sincerely thank Yang for blessing them a generous and abundant harvest season. The second is to pray that all good things will happen in the new year.

The course of the party for the buffalo is not very cheerful since it will be stabbed by the inhabitants. However, it is not an execution for pleasure as it is done in bullfights.

Indeed, in this solemn feast, the buffalo plays a very important role. He is likened to an emissary who carries to the Yang the aspirations and wishes of the entire community. The buffalo stabbing ceremonies are very solemn, demonstrating the sanctity of the beliefs of ethnic minorities.

Buffalo Fighting Festival in Hai Phong

Buffaloes fight in the festival in Vietnam
Buffaloes fight in the festival

Known as one of Vietnam’s most famous festivals, the Buffalo Fighting Festival in Hai Phong attracts many tourists every year. It’s not just a fun festival, it also has deep meanings.

According to the old concept, if a village owns the buffalo that wins the battle, that year the weather will be favorable, the whole village will be very lucky, everyone will be at peace during the journey to the sea. After the fight, the buffaloes are slaughtered and sacrificed to heaven and earth to pray for a harmonious harvest. Locals believe that if they eat buffalo meat during the festival, they will encounter a lot of lucky things and good omens.

The buffalo represents prosperity

In the past, the buffalo was considered a measure of wealth. So in Vietnam, there is a proverb “Buy a buffalo, get married, build a house. These three tasks are all difficult” to emphasize the importance of the buffalo in life, or “The buffalo is the essential of fortune” to affirm that the buffalo is a prerequisite for having a favorable career.

According to the concept of Feng Shui, the buffalo brings prosperity and good luck. Today, many families in Vietnam still use the buffalo statue as decorations to ward off bad things and attract fortune and luck to their homes.

The image of buffaloes in art

The image of the buffalo entered the cultural life of the people a long time ago and has since crept into folk works of art. It frequently appears in the heritage of Vietnamese folk art whose painting “Keeping the buffalo, playing the flute” is one of the most representative of Dong Ho’s paintings – a type of folk painting in the province of Bac Ninh (North).

"Keeping the buffalo, playing the flute" a typical example of Dong Ho folk paintings in Vietnam
“Keeping the buffalo, playing the flute” a typical example of Dong Ho folk paintings

The image shows the harmony between heaven, earth, people and animals, the buffalo also appreciates the boy’s flute, becoming a close friend of people. Looking at the photo, people can feel a peaceful life, making all fatigue disappear.


For a long time, the buffalo has been considered a faithful friend, attached to the life of the Vietnamese people. Referring to the buffalo, people often associate the image of a strong, industrious animal, so it is an ideal animal representing the image of the Vietnamese people. It can be said that the role of the buffalo is undeniable in cultural and spiritual life, contributing to the beauty of Vietnamese culture.

The image of buffaloes in the rice fields of Vietnam is also an image representing the authentic beauty of the peaceful countryside.
Do not hesitate to come to Vietnam with us to observe this wonderful scene!

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