A public letter of Dr. Sajjad Khan. He is Professor and Chairman of the Animal Breeding and Genetics Department, University of Agriculture Faisalabad.
Catwalks and bull walks are common vocabulary terms yet, ‘goat walk’ may be something new for many of you debating conservation and improved utilization of animal genetic resources, every day. We here in Pakistan are bombarded with information relevant to many negative events, perhaps to keep a common person surprised and vulnerable. The sober events are rarely reported and of course, if ‘dignitaries’ are missing in such events, print and electronic media do not waste space. Of course, there may be more thrilling events than goats wearing turbans.
We are rich in genetic diversity. Language changes after a crew flight and so are the goat breeds which are at least 36. Since we are executing a goat conservation effort, I am happily reporting that people are trying to conserve a breed of goat called Nachi (dancing) through appreciation of its characteristic walk.
The shows are held in southern Punjab (Utch Sharif, District of Bahawalpur), the home track of the breed and our project area. The meat is the primary product while milk is also consumed but people keep the breed more for its unique dancing gait than the consumable products. For these shows, farmers gather from all the surrounding areas on foot, the evening before the show. The rehearsal is done that evening. Of course few come with tractors tied trollies to haul their goats and village supporters. ‘Goat walk’ is held early in the morning as heat is not bearable afterward and there are no tents or chairs.
For this event, held last week, there were 22 farmers and a number of goats per farmer varied between 3 and 20. One had to walk in front of the flock. You cannot carry a stick but can have wooden handle ax on your shoulder, most had. You cannot use your hands to guide goats. Can whistle or call goats verbally but not repeatedly. Walk about a 100 yard in front of semi circled chanting and gasping people with an occasional child or two crossing in front and return back to the starting point. A judge will follow your flock at a distance and may ask you to repeat the walk. Turning back should be as smooth as possible and flocks ability to keep intact and follow you will be judged by the judge. The leading goat (with a most beautiful walk) among the flock will be decorated with a white turban if you win (meet the minimums) and there was no limit on a number of winners. If all participating flocks had the ability to win a turban, all will be given a turban. Now you can dance (alone or with villagers) and give charity to drum beaters and kids and can even through currency in the air. Everything is on a self-help basis with the major contribution from a well to do locally. Every few villages seem to have one such person. Next time, we will try to have turbans for the owners as well.
A few years back Nachi was considered vulnerable. Out goat show last year also helped to bring it back. We plan the second national goat show this October and hope breeds such as Nachi are not vulnerable anymore. Let’s help people feel good of what they are doing by keeping and raising these indigenous breeds. Will report on National Goat Show being planned for this year in (October, 19-21) here at the University. Everybody is invited. Videos for this event will be posted on the project website (http://www.fangrpk.org/). Until then bye bye.