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ANIMALS IN BALTISTAN
There are two main categories of animals which are found in different parts of Baltistan.
This includes yaks, cows, bulls and cross between yak and cows viz ‘ZO’ and ZOMOS, Sheep Goats, Horses and Donkeys.
Wild animals of the area include Ibex, Markhor, Musk Deer, Snow-leopard, Brown – bear, Black bear, Jackals, Fox, Wolves, and Marmots.
The origin of animals in Baltistan.
The domesticated animal breeds of this area are mainly from the Central Asian origin and were brought to these areas by the Nomadic Tribes of Central Asia who migrated from their home – lands for settlement in this area. The first animal domesticated in this area is Goat.
The other animal which carries some historical value is Yak. This animal is Central Asian origin and is found in Russian Turkistan, Chinese Turkistan, Inner and outer Mongolia, Tibet, Laddakh, Gilgit and Baltistan. The domestication of this animal is yet a disputed matter but it can be safely said that this animal was tamed in pre – historic days and the references about this animal are found in Chinese, Tibetian and Mongolian animals. Some references about Yak are also found in “Tura – I – Changaizi”. It may be mentioned that this animal was under the extensive use of Mongolian Tribes at that time and the banner of Changaiz Khan is said to have been made from the White Tails of Yaks signifying the great tribes of Mongolia who first came under the banner of Changaiz Khan.
There is no historical evidence how Yak was first used in cross breeding but this fact is quite important that the Central Asian people had the knowledge of the advantages of cross breeding since a very long time, when ours was scanty and undeveloped. They used this animal in a much scientific way in the field of breeding, through the people of this area were quite cut of from the rest of the world and had practically no scientific knowledge. They way how they crossed this animal can be ascertained from the following statement:
Yak x Cow Zo and Zomo
Zomo x Yak Tol and Tolmo
Tolmo x Yak Gar and Garmo
Garmo x Yak Gir and Girmo
Girmo x Yak Hluk and Hlukmo
Hlukmo x Yak Yak and Yakmo
The Yak in this area not only serves as a sire but also as a beast of burden. The hair is used for weaving of local matting (Charras). Local tobacco pipes (Huka) are made from its horn. In Ladakh legs of ornamental chairs are made from it.
The offshoots of first generation of Yak and Cow are known as Zo and Zomo. The Zo is a sturdy, sure footed and hardy animal. It is used for ploughing and as beast of burden too, while the Zomo is best milch animal of the area.
COWN AND BULLS
This area has no breeds of significant value but the animals are of short and stumpy size and their size varies according to the climatic and topographical conditions of the different areas. For examples, the animal from Shigar and Rondu areas are bigger in size due to better soil and good fodder facilities in these areas. These animals yield higher milk quantity then the rest. Normally the animals are poor producer and cannot yield more than two pounds of milk in lactation period of one hundred and eighty days. These animals can hardly serve any other purpose than providing manure for the farmer who prefers it to milk as the crop production of the area is highly dependent on animal and human manure.
SHEEP AND GOATS
The breeds of this area are also like bovine breeds and considerably differ in size and character. The wool of sheep in this area is of fine quality but the fibre is short in length. The wool is used in the manufacture of Pattus. The goat hairs are used Charra making. The skins of these animals are used in place of gunny bags for storage of grains etc., and foot wrapping during winter season. A local foot wear known as PAPOO is also made of goat or Yak hairs and is very comfortable during winter. In Chhorbat area one Goat breed is known to have been yielding Pashmina of low quality which is utilized in ‘Fard’ making, a well known cottage industry of the area which has gone under deterioration since the liberation of this area as most of raw Pashmina was brought from Laddakh on barter system. In order to improve the Pashmina, some goats from Angora are being imported.
The horses of this area are short and stumpy with powerful neck and compact body. The well know breed of the horses is ‘Zanskari’ ponies which are very much sure footed and can withstand the extreme climatic condition of this area. The diseases amongst horses have been mentioned since very long time. An account has also been given by Mirza Mohammad Haider Dughlat, who writes that while going back to Kashgar, Sultan Abu Sayeed died and his body was carried to Kashghar. On the way their horses died of Lung diseases.
The word Markhor derives its origin from two Persian words i.e. ‘MAR’ means ‘snake’ and ‘KHOR’ means ‘eater’. Thus ‘Markhor means ‘serpent – eater’. There is a common belief among the locals of this area that Markhor eats snakes and during mastication foam comes out of its mouth and forms into a solid mass known as “Taryak”. According to the belief this Taryak is an effective antidote for snake venom. It is further said that the skin of this animal liberates a special odor, which prohibits the presence of snakes near its vicinity. The Markhor is specie of a gigantic goat. It is migratory and is found all over Baltistan. Markhor does not, as a rule, go as high as the Ibex, but lives on much more dangerous ground. Markhors keep in herds. The matting season is December and they separate in spring. This animal is available in the following Nullahs.
Askor, Stakcho, Chamacho, Skoyo, Bayicha, Cheri and Mountain range between Kowardo, Strangdongmon and Niali.
KAIL OR IBEX
This animal is found on mountains in almost all parts of Baltistan, and moves in herds. In winter and spring the Ibex can easily be found, but in summer when the grass is plentiful on mountains, they cover a great deal of ground and are often difficult to find. It has also been a practice in Baltistan to hunt Ibex by dogs, who drive them up amongst rocks and caves from which they cannot get down and keep them there until the hunters shoot them. The breeding season of Ibex commences from November and December. The young ones are generally born towards the end of June. This animal is found in the following Nullahs
Nar, Ghoro, Mashupi, Alchori, Tormik, Bayicha, Shigharthang, Basho, Katisho, Mantho, Thaley, Hushey Kanday, Bara, Kundus, Saltoro and Frano.
SHAPO OR ORIAL
Shapo is a kin of wild sheep. It does not move in very large herds. It has got strong sense of smell and grazes in open ground which makes it difficult to approach. The meat is particularly delicious. It is found in Gol, Nar, Sarfaranga, Katisho, Chorka, Alchori, Hashupi, Thaley, Bara and Kundus nullahs.
This animal is found in Tormik, Basho, Chamacho, Shingus, Basha and Arando nullahs. The hunters usually extract Musk from this animal. Its shooting is totally prohibited.
The hare is common throughout Baltistan. It is not eaten by the Baltis.
It is found in Deosai plains (Plateau) at an altitude of 13000 to 14500 feet. It is as large as fox of a dull yellowish color. It is said that this animal is frequently a prey to eagle. It emits a shriek cry on the approach of danger. This animal can dig very lengthy holes for its habitation where it constructs different apartments for different use i.e. store for food during winter, living hole and a portion for lavatory. Mr. Vigne who visited Skardu in 1935 describes this animal as under:
“My attention was attracted by the loud, shrill and repeated whistle of the Drum or Pua, a species of marmot, as large as a small fox, the whole body being of the same color, excepting that the back is marked of by a broader and much darker strips, distinguishable at a considerable distance. I had a skeleton of one of them prepared, but did not manage to bring it to England. It is, I believe, a new species altogether, those of the common marmot. M. Jecquemont has been the first to mention that he received a skin of a new marmot from Little Tibet. Bears are very numerous upon Deoteuh; and I was told that the marmot is frequently a prey to the eagle”.
This animal is also found throughout Baltistan.
This wild beast is found at a height of 13 to 14 thousand feet and above. The fur of this beast is very fine and can fetch good deal amount. This beast is not confined to any particular locality as its range of walking/running in search of its prey is extremely vast.
Bears are found in Deosai plain at an altitude of 13000 to 15000 feet, during summer season when the plains are accessible for four months from July to October after which it is snowbound for the remaining 8 months of the year. This beast is also available in Basha and Baraldo area of Shigar.