Water buffalo of Kerkini
Travelling around the land, mainly in the north and northwest, you will see many herds of water buffalo – the largest concentration in Greece. They may be ambling towards the calm waters of the lake where they love to swim and cool off in summer. Some historians trace the presence of water buffalo in Greece back 2,500 years, when Xerxes used them to carry his army’s supplies across the Strymon River, which feeds Lake Kerkini.
They were a source of income and sustenance for the locals during times of poverty but by the 1960s they were on the brink of extinction. Up until the 1950s, there had been 75,000 water buffalo in the region, valued not just for their meat and milk but also because of their use as work animals, as good as oxen at being harnessed and pulling the plow.
The introduction of the tracter and of Dutch cows resulted in the rapid reduction of their numbers to a mere 600 in 1992. By the end of the 90s, the remaining animals were incorporated into a programme aimed at saving them as an endangered species and since then the population has begun to rebound.
Today there are 1,600 water buffalo in the Kerkini area – the country’s second largest herd of about 400 is to be found in Western Greece in the wetlands around the Ambracian Gulf. But Lake Kerkini is the place to go to see them as it has developed into a region of tremendous interest for those seeking an alternative to ‘beach tourism’.
There is a lot to do, good small hotels, places to eat, water buffalo farms to visit and delicious meat and dairy products, which have made it into an exciting destination for gastronomes.
Water buffalo meat, unfamiliar as yet to the general public, stands out for its delicious flavour and nutritional value, as it is rich in iron, phosphorus and Vitamin A, and low in fat and cholesterol. Look for products bearing the labels Hasapaki, Boras and Kerkini Farm.
- AddressLake Kerkini, Serres 62055