Oxen from Tibet and India
Transcript from the
Illustrated London News
1 January 1859
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The Yak, or Thibet Ox
This wild-looking specimen of the ox tribe is wonderfully adapted to the country in which he is found, and adds greatly to the comfort of the inhabitants of those inhospitable regions. Formed to seek a subsistence among ice and snow, his form is short, but broadly and strongly built, with a small head, short horns, and a wild-looking eye. His long, black hair reaches to the ground, and he has a shaggy and savage appearance. The yak is used chiefly for carrying loads, as he is too intractable for the plough; but he is sometimes mounted, and carries his rider, slowly but surely, over the terrific passes, strewed with huge masses of rock, sometimes rising as high as 20,000 feet, which connect the various provinces in this barren and frightful country. The cow is kept only for milk.
Hybrids with the common species are much used for the plough, and also for carrying loads, as they are much more tractable than the yak, and quite as strong. The cow of this variety yields much more milk than the yak cow, and of a much richer quality. The milk is used chiefly for butter, of which almost every Ladaki consumes a certain quantity daily in his tea, in the same way as milk is used in England. The hair of both the yak and the hybrid, called the dso, is cut annually, and manufactured into cloth. It is singular that Colonel Cunningham, while expatiating on the intractability of the yak, throws doubts on its being found in a wild state; but all uncertainty on that point is set at rest by Lieutenant Peyton, of the 87th Fusiliers, who both shot them and brought away their horns and skins as trophies in 1855.
These beautiful specimens of the Bos Indicus have for centuries enjoyed a high reputation over the continent of India for strength and speed, and are much used by the wealthy natives for the stately cars which convey their families, concealed from every eye by the jealous purdah. Bernier mentions in his travels falling in with the family of Dara Shekoh, elder brother of Aurungzebe, as they were flying from that usurper, and they were then travelling in a cart drawn by these oxen. The carriages are exceedingly tasteful in their decorations, with their canopies of red cloth, surmounted by a silver spike, the curtains fancifully ornamented, and little lattices cut for the fair occupants to look from without being seen. The pole which terminates in a cross bar or yoke is of brass wire, forming a long cage something like an eel-pot in shape, the body of the vehicle is ornamented with brass and ivory, and the wheels have crescent-shaped pieces of wood fixed over the axle.
These oxen will travel during the night twenty-five or thirty miles, and in a country like Guzerat, where the soil, from its extreme lightness, works into deep ruts, carriages with springs, drawn by horses, are unknown, and it is the only alternative for those who cannot ride. Though now comparatively falling into disuse for the artillery, bullock batteries formed an important feature in our armies during Wellington's campaigns in Mysore and the Deccan.
Information about yaks
Sponsor a yak: make a contribution to the livelihoods of the mountainous people of Tibet
Yaks: The Bison of Tibet: a yak ranch in Idaho, USA
WebExhibits online museum, butter section
Oakland Zoo: Tibetan Yak
Guzerat oxen, or cattle (Bos indicus)
(apparently, 'Guzerat' was the Portuguese spelling for 'Gujarat')
Oklahoma State University, Dept of Animal Science, breeds of cattle:
Kankrej cattle and Guzerat cattle
State of Gujarat, India
The Hindu, Indian national newspaper:
When nature cries (2002)
Biodiversity in the backyard (2003)
League for Pastoral Peoples: Conservation cannot ignore pastoral rights
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