Breaking a Water Buffalo’s Horn

GD is from Orange County. She is a first generation Vietnamese American. Her parents are Vietnamese refugees. GD is a student as USC majoring in global health on the pre-medicine track. She wishes to return to Vietnam to serve the rural populations through maternal and child health care.

“When Vietnamese girls turn 16, they’re considered strong enough to break a water buffalo’s horn. No joke.”

“Where did you hear this from?”

“My grandpa told me this on my 16th birthday. I actually have no idea how real it is. I just heard it from my grandpa…he told me it’s symbolic of strength specifically for women.”

“Does this mean that women are supposed to be stronger than men?”

“The idea is that girls at 16 are stronger than boys at 16 because they mature faster and earlier, which is why a girl of 16 can break a water buffalo horn and a boy of 16 cannot.

This traditional Vietnamese belief is very interesting and unlike any I have heard before. I know that in many cultures there is a similar rite of passage that marks the liminal period for boys, often around the age of 13. However, this folk belief appears to stem from a less paternalistic society, where women are viewed as strong (literally) and independent, even surpassing the strength of boys at age 16.