Buffalo spa

Are you planning on buying a buffalo or two, or more? Or perhaps you have one to sell? A top tip is to go to a livestock market in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Do put on proper footwear though – no expensive sandals or impossible-to-clean canvas sneakers, and I would strongly advise against trying to walk around there barefoot: it is wet, muddy and slippery and where you have animals you also get the products of their digestion.

Buffaloes play a central role in Toraja culture. They are valued workers in the rice fields, and without them ceremonies can’t take place: buffalo sacrifice is the climax of funerals, for instance. Their importance make them pricey, especially the rare light-coloured ones with blue eyes, which my guide called the Toraja Mercedes because of their price-tag which can reach that of a house.

In the livestock market the buffaloes are bathed and scrubbed, from horn to hoof. Their horns are polished with lemon. Their appearance is important for their value on the market: they must look attractive to potential buyers! My driver, who had a great sense of humour, called the market “buffalo spa”. And indeed the buffaloes seemed to love their thorough cleaning ritual just as much as I love going to a spa.

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