Stephen Bennett (28th Jan 1922-18th Dec 2011)

Trinidad and Tobago Icons Vol 1

Stephen Bennett was born in Princes Town, Trinidad, on January 28th, 1922. At the age of ten, he became a professional jockey and developed an interest for animals. He attended St. Benedict’s College (now Presentation College), San Fernando, where he took part in sports.

He studied agriculture at the Ontario Agricultural College (now University of Guelph), Canada and specialised in animal husbandry. He was an exceptional student and upon graduation in 1941 he won the prize for the highest total marks at the university. That year when forced to return home due to the outbreak of World War II, he worked on his father’s dairy farm until he was put in charge of the Poultry and Livestock Division at Trinidad Leasehold Limited. After the war, he studied veterinary medicine at Colorado State University and graduated with a doctorate in 1948.

Many people tried to dissuade him from entering this profession since “vets” in those days only treated horses and their days were numbered with the impending ascendancy of cars. This, however, did not discourage him. Bennett opened a private practice and together with Dr. William Jones he established a successful small animal clinic. He soon became known throughout the Caribbean for his unmatched skills as a “vet”.

While at Caroni Limited he became interested in the water buffaloes that worked on the sugar estates. He soon realised the true potential of these tough, disease-resistant animals, and chose them for selective breeding. After years of research, he developed the buffalypso (Bubalis bubalis) in the early 1960s.

The buffalypso is a prized breed because of its thick skin that withstands parasites and its good quality beef and milk production. The skin is used in the manufacture of leather goods; its outer layer is used for belts and shoes and the thin inner layer for handbags.

Dr. Bennett received many awards for his contribution as a pioneer in veterinary medicine. They include the Chaconia Medal (Gold) from the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (1984) and an Honorary Degree from The University of the West Indies (2001). For the development of the buffalypso he was made an honorary lifetime member of the American Water Buffalo Association.

He passed away on 18th December, 2011.