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The Ouachitater Buffaloes are a group of approximately twenty-four water buffaloes, living on the banks of Lake Ouachita in Garland County, that were presented to Arkansas by officials in the Vietnamese government as an overture of peace and reconciliation between Vietnam and the United States. Known officially as the Lake Ouachita Water Buffaloes, they have assumed the popular appellation of “Ouachitater Buffaloes” on account of a popular slurring of the words “Ouachita” and “water.”
The Vietnamese government developed the idea of presenting some token of peace to the state of Arkansas following President Bill Clinton’s historic trip to Vietnam in 2000. After much debate, Vietnam’s National Assembly finally voted on January 15, 2001, to present to President Clinton’s home state a set of twenty-eight water buffaloes. The water buffalo, a beast of burden used throughout Vietnam, was chosen to represent the hard work that true peace would require, while the number of twenty-eight symbolized the number of years since American forces had left the country following the Vietnam War. Some in the U.S. Congress, specifically Representative John Boozman of the Third Congressional District of Arkansas, objected to accepting such a gift, saying that the symbolic number represented communist pride, but in the end it was decided to accept the gift.
Questions soon arose as to where the buffalo would best be placed. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission scouted out several areas and finally chose Lake Ouachita on account of it having adequate water and food resources, as well as a climate and environment similar to parts of Vietnam where water buffaloes live.
On April 1, 2001, Non Duc Manh, Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Vietnam, formally presented the twenty-eight water buffalo to the state of Arkansas in a ceremony on the banks of Lake Ouachita. In attendance were former president Clinton, Governor Mike Huckabee, and other dignitaries. Huckabee thanked the Vietnamese officials, saying, “I know these cows are sacred animals to Hindus like you, and the state of Arkansas promises to take care of them.” Clinton then cut a ribbon on the animals’ cage, thus releasing them into the wild.
The Ouachitater Buffaloes have proven to be a popular attraction in Garland County. Despite the goring death of Jenine Tipwilder on September 23, 2004, the public has reacted negatively to suggestions that the buffalo be penned in or put in some kind of zoo. In 2005, the badminton team of Hot Springs Math and Science School changed its official team name from the “Mathters of the Universe” to the “Ouachitater Buffaloes.” That same year, Arkansas’s public television station, AETN, broadcast three episodes of a short-lived children’s cartoon, Buffylo, the Tourist Slayer, set in Hot Springs and featuring as its main character one of the water buffaloes.
For additional information:Brazzel, Kyle. “Buffylo slain.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. August 29, 2004, p. 5D.
Dougan, Michael B. “A History of Man-Beast Interaction in Arkansas from Prehistoric Times to Our Sad, Present Condition.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 63 (Spring 2004): 15–72.
Fordyce, Sir John William Bedford. “Over There in ‘Nam, When We Saw a Buffalo, We Blowed It Up!” Hot Springs Sentinel-Record. April 3, 2001, p. 5.
Bubba Du ThuongArkansas April Fools Society
Last Updated 3/31/2007
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