Thai prime minister Srettha Thavisin (centre), new owner Jintanat Limtongkul (second L) and previous owner and buffalo breeder Damrongsak Morakut are seen with Ko Muang Phet, a buffalo who was sold for 18 million baht, at Government House in Bangkok on March 20, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin took the bull by the horns on Wednesday as he welcomed an unusual visitor to his offices — an enormous white buffalo that recently sold for $500,000.

The bulky bovine, named Ko Muang Phet, was renowned in Thai farming circles as a stud animal but hit the mainstream last week with its big-ticket sale, and earned a trip to Government House to meet Srettha.

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Standing 1.8 metres (six feet) tall, the four-year-old albino from western Phetchaburi province weighs 1.4 tonnes — almost three times more than the average buffalo.

Ko Muang Phet has already become a minor TV star, featuring in an episode of the hugely popular “Sound From The Field Of Love” soap opera.

Srettha - no shorty himself at 1.92 metres tall - went nose-to-nose with the horned celebrity in front of Government House.

“I had no idea we had such beautiful buffalo,” Srettha told gathered reporters, gingerly patting one of the creature’s huge curved horns.

“Are there more like this?”

Water buffalo are ubiquitous in the Thai countryside, prized as sturdy and reliable farm animals, and albino specimens are particularly valuable because of their rarity.

And big bulls are big business - last year a farmer in northern Phitsanulok province reportedly sold his 1.4-tonne bull for more than $1.45 million.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Srettha said the Thai Buffalo Breeding Association had asked the government to promote the animals as a tool of “soft power”.

Ko Muang Phet’s delighted owner Jintanat Limtongkul was all for the idea.

“I want people to get the know buffalo more. Thai people used to be close to agriculture and buffalo, but our lifestyle nowadays has distanced us,” he told reporters at Government House.

He pledged to bring four giant buffalo to meet tourists at Bangkok’s backpacker hotspot of Khao San Road next month for Songkran - the Thai new year festival which sees thousands of revellers soak one another in the streets in a mass water fight.