Serbian Domestic Buffalo

Breeds and animal husbandry - Serbia

The buffalos found in Serbia and nearby Balkan territories belong to the Mediterranean group. It reaches maturity only after 4-5 years, and the animals have a life expectancy of 20-25 years. Following traditional rearing systems, it remains outdoors for most of the year, grazing extensively from early spring to late autumn. Adult cows weigh 500-550 kg on average, and bulls 600-700 kg. In Serbia the domestic buffalo was used predominantly as draught power and for milk and butter production. Buffalo milk should contain at least 8% of milk fat. Today, the domestic buffalo are found in Serbia mainly in the areas of the Sjenica-Pester Highland, Sandzak, Kosovo and Mt. Stara. In Serbia buffalos, arrived from two directions: from one direction via Bulgaria and Greece, and from the other via Hungary. Some data also points to Christian crusaders, who brought buffalo from to the Balkans after their missions to Holy Land in Middle ages. The Monastery Decani, in the modern-day Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, had “buffalo keepers,” who dealt with buffalo breeding. Their production thrived during the Ottoman Empire. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, number of buffalo decreased. Remaining animals continued to be bred in areas with Muslim populations who have used their milk mainly for producing butter. By 2014, very few animals remained in the care of Bosniak Muslim families of the Tutin area and in Kosovo, where they still play their traditional role of production of milk and butter. One herd of these buffalo was established on Mt. Stara, close to Dimitrovgrad in Serbia, however its future is uncertain due to economic conditions. Serbian domestic buffalo have been in decline over the past decades, with an estimated population of just 500-1000 head in the early 2010s, and even fewer numbers registered in herdbooks. Today, demand for buffalo milk butter remains only among rural, Muslim countries. Due to this, the product is not found in markets, especially in larger towns an capital cities, and so consumers are generally unfamiliar with it. Similarly, very little demand exists for buffalo meat, and so it remains a product shared between friends and family.