Between 1975 and 1979, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) embarked on a genocidal program of sweeping economic, social, and political change. In an effort to modernize Democratic Kampuchea, as Cambodia was renamed, CPK officials forced the entire populace to clear forests; build dams, canals, and reservoirs; and grow rice in an effort to accumulate rapidly the necessary capital for industrialization. In doing so, upwards of two million people died from disease, hunger and malnutrition, torture, and execution. The broad coordinates of the genocide are well-established. To date, however, no scholarship has examined critically the role of non-human animals in the agricultural transformations initiated during the Cambodian genocide. Drawing on two bodies of scholarship, Agrarian Marxism and Animal Geographies, in this paper we examine the role of draught animals in the regime's plans to build an economy around agricultural expansion and rice production for export. Specifically, we trace the new productive relationships into which Cambodia's water buffalo and oxen became enmeshed, and the structures of violence within which these animals played an essential part. We find not only that the work of draught animals materially contributed to the CPK's plans for state-building, but in the process, the new state–animal relationship became an exemplar of the idealized relationship between the CPK and its human laborers. We conclude that the human–animal relationship provides key insights into the mass violence that transpired in Democratic Kampuchea under the Khmer Rouge and to this end encourage future engagement with interspecies relationships in the Cambodian context and in genocide studies more broadly.