AskDefine | Define carabao

Dictionary Definition

carabao n : water buffalo of the Philippines

User Contributed Dictionary



Spanish carabao.


IPA: /kæɹə'beɪəʊ/


  1. a water-buffalo
    • 1999: The weaker carabaos are slaughtered for meat, the stronger ones put to work on Golgotha, and the drivers are assimilated into the workforce. — Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon



From Filipino kalabaw.


IPA: /karabao/


carabao m
  1. a water-buffalo

Extensive Definition

The carabao (Filipino: kalabaw; Malay: kerbau) or Bubalus 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 typically associated with farmers, being the farm animal of choice for pulling the plow and the cart used to haul farm produce to the market. Kerbau is the official animal identity of Negeri Sembilan.


Adult carabaos 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; water buffalo have been domesticated in the Philippines as far back as pre-Hispanic times and are often used by farmers in the Philippines to plow the fields and as a means of transportation. The carabao is one of the most important animals in the country, especially in agriculture. The old “payatak” method of farming is still the method of choice in Northern Samar. The soil of the rice paddy is first softened with rainwater or diverted watershed, then the farmer guides a group of carabaos in trampling the planting area until it is soggy enough to receive the rice seedlings. This time consuming task produces lower yields and lower income when compared with the advancement in irrigated fields.
The carabao is considered a national symbol of the Philippines.
In the late 1980s, a Philippine-made contemporary carabao puppet character, named Kardong Kalabaw, became popular to the children. This beloved character came to symbolize the Filipino people's hard work and sense of industry.
Also, the children's mascot of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Guyito, is a carabao.

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 the 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 Reservoir. 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.

In Philippines

Although there is no law that decrees the carabao to be a national symbol in the Philippines it is generally considered by most Filipinos to be their national animal. Government agencies have come together to improve the marketability of the species. The Philippine Carabao Center had an initial success in reproductive biotechnology in 2004 when the first test-tube hybrid carabao was born on April 5, also the birthday of the President of the Philippines. The breakthrough hybrid was a female and named "Glory" after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The PCC was Joseph Estrada’s most successful project as an opposition senator, created through Republic Act 3707, the Carabao Act of 1992. Late in 2007, according to Filipino scientists, the Center located in Nueva Ecija initiated a study to breed the super water buffalo that could produce 4 to 18 liters of milk/day (gene-based technology). The majority of the funding came from the Department of Science and Technology. When this marker-assisted selection process is perfected it will allow the poor farmers to conserve their resources by raising only the best producers that are genetically selected soon after birth.


carabao in German: Carabao (Wasserbüffel)
carabao in Spanish: Carabao
carabao in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Carabao
carabao in Italian: Bubalus bubalis carabanensis
carabao in Latin: Carabao
carabao in Tagalog: Kalabaw
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