WE ARE GRATEFUL to the National Academy of Sciences for the press release we reproduce below and for an accompanying report, both calling our attention to certain crimes being committed against the reputation of the water buffalo. According to the just-released report, this misunderstood beast is both an important neglected resource and the victim of widespread and generally mean-spirited allegations. The report, its preface tells us, is the work of an international panel of "leading water buffalo experts," and we would have expected no less from the academy, although we do note with a certain dismay that in contravention of the participatory spirit of the times, no water buffalo appears to have been asked to serve on it.

Even with this failing, however, it is a useful report, a real eye-opener. Here, at the risk of revealing ourselves to be precisely the kind of effete, impudent snobs the great fallen Yak of American politics once accused us of being, we must admit that in the circles we move in you don't hear a lot about water buffaloes in the first place. Still, there is a wrong to be righted here. Somebody is speaking ill of water buffaloes. So we intend to share some of the report's insights with you. First, and here is the nub of the matter: the water buffalo is not mean or vicious, but, rather, "sociable, gentle and serene." (How many of you can say that?) The nasty ones, who probably get all the press, are likely to be either those who have been wounded, those who are "severely stressed," or those male Egyptian water buffaloes, who, alone among the dozens of their kind, are "highly temperamental."

Despite its rather formidable size and weight (a couple of thou sand pounds), the water buffalo, in the panel's view, is "more like a household pet" than a farm animal. ("Dear, I think the W.B. wants to go out.") They are especially good with children, being patient and even tempered: the report describes how children in rural Asia may spend their days riding and washing and taking naps on water buffaloes. In Bulgaria, water buffaloes pull snow plows.

In Italy, they produce mozarrella cheese. Wherever they live, they are not particularly fussy about living conditions, such as having a swamp or river to wallow in; they will have a nice wallow in any yecch that happens to be at hand.

And, best of all (we have been saving this for last), the water buffalo's proper name is utterly fitting to describe so affable and unthreatening and accommodating a creature. Its proper name is Bubalus bubalis.

You may call him Bubbie--but you should quit knocking his kind.

What did he ever do to you?