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In the 1970s, Dr. Hugh Popenoe imported water buffalo first from the South Pacific Island of Guam to Archer, Florida. On Guam, the buffalo are known as "carabao" (Bubalus bubalis carabanesis), a breed of Swamp buffalo introduced to the island from the Phillipines (1). Shortly thereafter, he brought Buffalypso River buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) from the Caribbean Island of Trinidad, to join the herd in Archer. The first introduction of River buffalo to Trinidad were brought from India in the early 1900s for use in agriculture. In the 1950s the Buffalypso breed was developed for improved meat production (2).
The herd has flourished from these original introductions and was the largest water buffalo herd, at 800 head, in North America during the 1990s. Over the years, Dr. Popenoe has sold and donated many of his animals for projects related to international agriculture, animal science, nutritional analyses, aquatic weed managment and historic preservation.
Originally domesticated about 5,000 years ago in India, water buffalo are a major source of milk, draft power, and meat for people across the world. Outside of their native range in Southeast Asia, water buffalo have been dispersed by humans from as far North as Romania and Montana in the USA to as far south as Australia and Argentina. They thrive at varied elevations and a range of climates from the Himalayas to the Amazon basin. This can be attributed natural range and adaptability of water buffalo, enhanced by traditional and modern breeding programs.
The water buffalo on Popenoe Ranch roam sinkholes, ponds, and hammocks on two farms near Archer, Florida. They are well adapted to the subtropical climate here in Florida. They have high resistence to disease and parasites, so they are not treated with antibiotics at Popenoe Ranch. Water buffalo can persist on browse that is of lower quality than browse needed to raise most conventional cattle breeds, an advantage in the sandy pastures of Florida. As a result, there are no growth hormones used to enhance their size or development of the animals at Popenoe Ranch. They are successful, productive inhabitants of the Florida landscape.
Today, continuing in the tradition of the farms, we look to fulfill a need for ecologically conscious food production that strengthens food security within the region. The water buffalo are an impressive domesticated animal well-suited for the Florida landscape, roaming free in the green pastures of two farms, Sawgrass and Schoolhouse, just south of Archer in Levy County. The buffalo are raised exclusively on grass and are not fed concentrates or grain. Buffalo provide a meat low in both cholesterol and saturated fat, a healthy alternative to beef and pork (see Nutritional Data). We invite you to try some of this delicious, local, and wholesome food from right down the road. Contact us to find out about product availability and order forms. Thanks for your interest and we are excited to share the water buffalo experience with you!
1. Water Buffalo / Karabao Fact Sheet. 2009. Division of Aquatic & Wildlife Resources, Department of Agriculture, Government of Guam
2. "Water Buffaloes of Trinidad and Tobago". 2004. The Ministry of Agriculture, Land, and Marine Resources, The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago