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Vignette: Local Ox Rampages Airport, Stops Flights, Gets Put in Museum in Huế

Name a famous buffalo.

Maybe you are able to recall a specific buffalo from a beloved story or film, but it’s unlikely you can think of an actual buffalo that can be deemed notorious. Fame is a uniquely human quality after all and it’s rare for an animal to have such an impact on our societies so as to achieve it.

But I have seen a famous buffalo. On the second floor of Huế’s Central Coast Museum of Nature (Bảo Tàng Thiên Nhiên Duyên Hải Miền Trung), surrounded by primate skeletons and across from a taxidermy chicken diorama rests a stuffed buffalo head. On the third floor, the full and imposing skeleton stands. We’ve written enough about the failure of Vietnamese museums to offer enough informative signage, but it’s true that we wouldn’t have known this buffalo is famous were it not for the museum staff that happened to be showing us around. They shared its story.

In 2012, a buffalo rampaged onto the Huế’s Phú Bài International Airport runway after killing a local woman. At least 12 flights were affected and more than 100 policemen were required to capture the wild animal that died shortly after its capture. The bull, famous to those who had picked up a newspaper that day or heard telling of it in the city, was donated to the humble museum.

Its head rests down the hall from the body of another quasi-famous mammal: one of the 17 tigers recovered during a bust of the shockingly large illegal tiger operation in Nghệ An in 2021. It ultimately passed away not long after its rescue and its body was donated to the museum to aid in its mission to educate locals about Vietnam’s natural world. We only knew the story behind this specific stuffed tiger because of the staff.

Is the nature museum any more appealing with the knowledge that some of the animals on display made national headlines? Do the buffalo’s glass eyes sparkle a little brighter knowing the body they’re set in demanded the full attention of a police force and diverted countless holidays? It could be true that “You’re nobody, till somebody kills you” as The Notorious B.I.G. rapped. But you still need people to share the story to keep that fame intact. This is Saigoneer, doing our part. 

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