Srinagar, Apr 12: Once known as the ‘working animal of Kashmir’, Zanskari horse, a rare species of native Himalayan equines, is nearing extinction, with this breed no more traceable in rural Kashmir.
Zanskari, basically from Kargil in Ladakh region, was a popular domestic animal in Kashmir before ‘90s, used especially for transportation.
These average 120-centimeters tall horses are known for their ability to carry loads at high altitudes even at minus 40 degrees Celsius.
Now, it is among the endangered species of the state due to its indiscriminate cross-breeding with other horses in the last two decades.
As per the data, in 1977, the population of Zanskari horses was estimated to be 15,000–20,000 in India with Kashmir contribution almost 70 per cent to the total.
Researchers at SK University of Agricultural Sciences’ Mountain Research Centre for Sheep and Goat (MRCSG) claim that their number in the state, including in Kargil where this animal would be found in abundance, has reduced to a few hundreds.
DrMuzamil Abdullah, Assistant Professor at MRCSG, claimed that these horses were being rarely spotted in Kashmir.
“Although their current population is not known, but very less pure Zanskari horses are left with us now. This animal was used in Tongas during ‘90s but with advancement in means of transport this breed has somehow went out of our sight,” he said.
“It used to be the most-suitable animal to the climate and topography of our region.”
He said that the valley farmers’ mostly rare ponies, despite them being less efficient compared to Zanksari horses.
“We have witnessed that some new breeds of horses have evolved in the valley. We have Arabian cross-breeds, ponies, mules and Zanskari cross-breeds. No pure Zanskari horse is found in the valley now,” Abdullah said.
He said the state government lacks conservation policy for Zanskari horses in the valley.
“The army has one breeding Centre at Haftchinar area in Srinagar for defense purpose and another one is in Padum in Kargil,” he said.
A research by scientists M.R. Fazili and M.A. Kirmani has cited the growing attacks by wild animals and the decreasing of pastures as the reasons behind the decline in the horse’s population in the valley.
Ghulam Ahmad, a resident of Sopore, said these horses were commonly used for domestic works by farmers.
“The height of Zanskari horse used to be more than a normal horse. In many villages, these horses were used to ferry apple boxes from gardens to the market,” he said.