Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

water-buffalo Bubalus bubalis, one of the most important animals of Asia, makes a contribution to food supplies both directly, when its milk is used or it is eaten as meat, and indirectly because of its role as a draught animal in agriculture. Its world population in the 1980s was estimated to be over 130 million.

There are two general types, the swamp buffalo and the river buffalo. The former is found from the Philippines to as far west as India and is primarily a work animal; it is also used for meat but almost never for milk. The river buffaloes are found further west from India to Egypt and the Balkans, even to Italy. They supply well over half of India’s milk and their butterfat is the major source of ghee. In Pakistan in 1996, 71 per cent of the national milk productionn and 49 per cent of its meat was from the water-buffalo.