HAUKOLA THE BUFFALO
It was 1971, when Libuše Niklová got another revolutionary idea, namely to create a series of inflatable seat animals. One of them was the now world-famous Haukola the Buffalo. Its production began in 1973. This ingenious toy also serves as children’s furniture and is extremely popular with children, so much so that it is being produced again and its popularity continues to rise. Almost 900,000 have been produced so far.
Haukola the Buffalo is now a cult toy and thanks to many years of production, several generations of children have played with it. But it is also an icon of world design, which visitors could admire in the best museums of modern art in the world, such as MoMA in New York or the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
How it all began...
It was 1971, Libuše Niklová had already designed over a hundred toys that were mass-produced, and she came up with another amazing idea. Inflatable toys, which are also children’s seats, in the shape of animals. One of the first such animals was Haukola the Buffalo. In 1971, a prototype was created, which had to be selected and approved by the Fatra works council. Before the production of the verification series, a test of functionality and likability took place in kindergartens. After further technical adjustments, the toys were exhibited at Pragoexpo, where they were introduced to the general public. Exhibitions were an indicator of interest and contracts were concluded here for the next period. At that time, of course, there were no production methods that could be used, but this was no problem for Libuše Niklová, she was just approved by the Office for Inventions and Discoveries for three patents for the production of multi-part inflatable toys, and so it didn’t take long for her to apply for a patent in 1972 for his next invention. The approval of the patent was not expected, the seating toys had a great response, before the final technological procedure for production was developed, it was still necessary to produce 300 to 500 pieces for the verification series, which preceded the final start of production. Serial production started already in 1973.
Libuše Niklová applied for a patent for a method of manufacturing inflatable objects, especially children’s seats in the shape of animals, from foils of thermoplastic materials on August 25th, 1972. The application received the number 1972-5857 and was evaluated for 1177 days. The patent was published on June 24th, 1974. The patent was issued on November 15th, 1975 under the number 160361. There was no waiting for the patent to be issued, and the production of sitting toys with this new method began in Fatra Napajedla already in 1973. It was a new way of producing children’s inflatable sitting toys in the shape of the animals, which would best suit not only the required construction, but also guarantee optimal properties during use, as well as their long service life. Thanks to this invention, Libuše Niklová was able to start realizing her series of inflatable seat toys, led by the red Buffalo.
Libuše Niklová, in cooperation with technologists, prepared test welding electrodes, which are used to make toys to this day. The serial production of the red Buffalo therefore began in 1973. One Buffalo requires 21 work operations. Individual parts need to be cut out of the foil, the eyes must be assembled, the inflatable valve welded and the individual parts high-frequency welded together. Each Buffalo is inflated and deflated to verify functionality, then assembled and packed. 3.4 m2 of PVC foil is needed for one Buffalo.
Place of birth
Fatra Napajedla, okres Gottwaldov
The production process of PVC, hard and soft, from which inflatable toys are also made, including Haukola the Buffalo. Illustration by Vojtěch Kubašta, 1980.
In the seventies, the buffalo was packaged in four-color printed bags with a beautiful illustration. A buffalo weighs half a kilogram, so this method of packaging was a practical solution when buying. The buffalo’s packaging has changed over time, and currently there is a photo on the packaging that shows him inflated compared to the size of a child.
Ain't Buffalo like Buffalo...
The original Haukola Buffalo had eyes more on the side, the modern Buffalo has eyes more in the center.
The modern buffalo also differs from the original one in the way it holds its head. It has its head welded to its body in its lower part, whereas the original Bufallo has it welded to its body in its upper part. Due to this, the dimensions also differ. The original Buffalo has dimensions of 65 x 57 cm and the modern one 63 x 58 cm.
All original inflatable buffaloes are marked on the valve with a small f, i.e. the Fatra marking, the year of manufacture and the inscription MADE IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Newly produced buffaloes are marked with the inscription MADE IN CZECH REPUBLIC.
Although everyone knows this Buffalo in the traditional deep red color, later, especially in the nineties, it was produced in several other colors. For example in green, blue, purple or black. In 2010, several transparent pieces were also created for the purposes of exhibitions of works by Libuše Niklová and Petr Nikl.
What about the baby?
In 1976, when Buffalo and several other sitting animals of similar dimensions were already popular with many children and adults, Libuše Niklová designed a smaller version of several animals for even smaller children. The Buffalo also had a baby and this toy was called Buvol malý and was for children from 2 years old. The dimensions were roughly half the size of the original Buffalo, measuring 33 x 35 centimeters. The small buffalo, type 3065, began production in 1978 and was also very popular, still in production in the 1990s.
Even the little Buffalo had several different colors, especially in the nineties.
What can Buffalo do?
This inflatable Buffalo is again a brilliant creation of Libuše Niklová, it is another of the multifunctional toys. It can be used as a classic toy, but also as seating furniture or as a bouncy chair, and it is also equipped with sound.
After the publication of a successful monograph and the organization of even more successful exhibitions of Libuše Niklová’s creations named 200 dm3 dechu (of breath), it was also possible to resume the production of three seating toys, the Buffalo, the Elephant and the Giraffe. After a break of at least eleven years, the inflatable Buffalo began to be produced again in 2011 after receiving the Safe Toys of the Year certificate in 2010. It is still being produced and its popularity is still growing.
The traveling Buffalo...
Even this inflatable Buffalo has become an object of interest abroad. For example, in Poland, they added nostrils and an angry expression to a small buffalo.
The Buffalo and his friends...
Haukola the Buffalo also has lots of friends serving the same main purpose, i.e. to allow children to sit on them and jump on them. Libuše Niklová designed another 10 animals made with the method patented under the number 160361. In addition, Vlastík the Elephant, the Giraffe, the Piggy and the Polar Bear also have babies. The hippopotamus was produced only as a small baby one.
Vlastík the Elephant
Vlastík the elephant is one of the trio of the most famous inflatable toys by Libuše Niklová. He too appeared at exhibitions in the Louvre in Paris or MoMA in New York. Vlastík the elephant was designed by Libuše Niklová in 1972 and was started to be produced in 1974. Its re-production started in 2011 together with Haukola the Buffalo and Giraffe. Vlastík the Elephant also has a baby, which was sold under the name Slůně (baby elephant). Libuše Niklová designed it in 1975 and production began in 1977.
Among the Buffalo and the Elephant, the Giraffe is Libuše Niklová’s most famous inflatable toy. It has also been exhibited in the Louvre and MoMA. It was designed in 1971 and went into series production in 1974. It was also re-produced in 2011. And since she was also very popular from the beginning, she also had a cub. It was designed in 1975 and production began in 1977.
The Horse was the first animal-shaped seating toy designed by Libuše Niklová. It was designed in 1971 and went into series production in 1973, just like the Buffalo. Only the Horse and the Buffalo were put into production in the first year, 1973. It was re-produced in 2013.
The meter-long Caterpillar, which is the only one for two children, was designed in 1974 and its production began in 1976. Its re-production began in 2012. The original Caterpillar was green-blue and its eyes were yellow. In 2012, for the first six months, it was produced in three colors, still red and yellow and with a printed face, i.e. nose and mouth. By the end of 2012, a correction was made and it is now produced only in the original form, with only small differences, namely with white eyes and yellow color instead of blue on the body.
The Piggy was designed in 1974 and its series production began in 1976. Its five-piece production began in 2013. Libuše Niklová also designed the little Piggy in 1975 and it went into production in 1977. Today’s Piggy is more pink than the original.
The Polar bear was one of the first seating toys in the shape of animals designed by Libuše Niklová. She designed it in 1971, and it went into series production in 1974. In 1975, she also designed a baby to go with it, which went into production in 1977.
Among the sitting toys in the shape of animals, the king of animals, the Lion, cannot be missing. Libuše Niklová designed it in 1974 and serial production began in 1976.
The camel is one of the three very last toys designed by Libuše Niklová. She designed it in 1980 and unfortunately, she did not see its serial production, it started to be produced in 1982.
Even this Rhinoceros is one of the very last toys designed by Libuše Niklová. Like the Camel, it was designed in 1980 and Libuše Niklová did not even live to see its production, it too was only produced in 1982. It is interesting that the second toy from this series after the Horse was also the Rhinoceros, designed in 1971, which, however, remained only in the stage prototype. His drawing is also part of the patent application. It was the same in size, but with a different head.
The Hippopotamus is the only one that was not created in a large version, but only as a baby, little Hippo, i.e. for the smallest children. Libuše Niklová designed it in 1976 and it went into series production in 1978.
In 2020, the State Printing Office of Valuables issued a commemorative sheet in the form of a banknote on which the inflatable Buffalo of Libuše Niklová is depicted. This is a banknote worth 2000 nickels (nikláků). The commemorative sheet in the form of a banknote with a Buffalo motif is the result of close cooperation between the State Printing Office of Valuables, a state-owned enterprise and the University of Applied Arts in Prague. The commemorative sheet in the form of a banknote was graphically processed and printed by STC according to the design of student Tuan Vuong Trong, who used motifs of Czech applied art as a way of presenting national wealth. In the case of the Buffalo commemorative sheet, it is the work of Libuše Niklová, the author of inflatable toys from the 1970s.
The buffalo is an icon of world design...
The Inflatable Buffalo has been a wonderful toy for fifty years, but in some homes it serves as a design element. And the same thing happens in the world’s best museums of modern art and design. Libuše Niklová’s inflatable Buffalo has already appeared at traveling exhibitions on three continents and was everywhere one of the main exhibits and one of the most admired by the audience. And many museums have them in their collections, for example, at the MoMA in New York.
We know for sure that the inflatable Buffalo has participated in exhibitions in these world museums:
Haukola the Buffalo
The name Haukola comes from the Magnet catalog from 1976, i.e. from the time when the Buffalo was already in production for 3 years. When and why this name disappeared, ceased to be used is unknown. It is also not known if it is the name given to Buffalo by Libuše Niklová herself.
In the language of the Sioux Indians, Hau kola means good luck to a friend.