The area now comprising Pakistan had been the route of the Greek, Arab, Persian and Afghan conquerors of India for centuries. All the foreign armies brought horses with them, which were subsequently crossbred extensively, so mixed breed horses are common. Two centuries ago, horse breeding was at its climax in Pakistan and the British colonial rulers frequently sent thousands to Europe for use in wars. In order to meet the increasing demand of the army for heavier horses, (for carriage of heavier weapons) large numbers of European thoroughbreds were imported. These thoroughbreds were crossed with the local breeds. Gradually most of the local breeds have disappeared. Three pure breeds of horses are known from Pakistan.
This breed is indigenous to the Balochistan province but is now also found in Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Bahawalpur, and the Multan districts. It has also spread to other parts of the country. This breed is easily scared, and therefore is not used by the police and the army. However, it is popular in tent pegging sport, and for horse carts and general riding.
This small-sized breed is found in the districts of Attock, Jhang, Mianwali and Faisalabad. It is believed that this breed was imported but has been crossbred.
Presently, only a few pure blood animals are available. Others believe that this breed is already extinct. The horses used to play polo in the Gilgit area are believed to be a separate breed.
This breed was imported from Britain and reared in the military farms of Sargodha, Sahiwal, and in Faisalabad’s remount farms. Large areas of land have been leased to local farmers on the condition that they cross these breeds only with select stallions. This breed is popular for horse races and is a part of the presidential bodyguard. It is also reared in government farms.
10.5 Camels (Camelus dromedarius)
Camels are widely used for draught and beef in the country. The breeds are broadly classified as hilly area, plain area and dual-purpose camels.
The hilly area camel is widely used for carrying heavy loads. It is small in size, very hardworking and docile. Breeds of this category are the Powinda, Pashin, Brohi and Salt Range. The Powinda and Pashin are found at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Brohi in Balochistan and the Salt Range in Jhelum, Rawalpindi and the Attock districts. The hilly area breeds of camel have adapted to tolerate the cold season.
The plain area camel breeds include species that are found in the canal-irrigated tracts of the Sindh and Punjab provinces. The Thalli and Bahawalpuri breeds are found in the desert areas of Thall and Bahawalpur.
Three breeds of chicken are found in Pakistan. The Aseel in Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP is an expensive breed. It is famous for cock fighting. The naked neck and the Desi breeds are found throughout the country. These are egg layers and a source of meat. With the introduction of poultry farming, imported cheaper white leghorns have almost overtaken the indigenous breeds in the poultry markets. Unlike the imported breeds, the local varieties are not reared in poultry farms. Fayumi is another breed that has been successfully introduced for rearing in households.
10.7 Social and Cultural Values
Cattle have a traditional importance in the culture of Pakistan. The Aryan race that invaded the subcontinent approximately 4000 years ago also brought large herds of cattle. The cow is sacred in the Hindu culture and a large number of sacred cows can be seen in the Thar districts of Sindh where Hindu communities still reside. A study of the evolution of the social development in the subcontinent reveals that the races and castes that exist today were initially categorised according to their profession. The person that rears and breeds cattle is called a Gujjar. Hence the caste - Gujjar. Cattle are colloquially called mal, which means wealth. So the larger the herd in turn means the higher the social status. Though the old culture is fast disappearing in Pakistan, a glimpse can be seen in the culture of the grazers of Cholistan. Cholistanis still prefer to buy more cattle than land when they have money (See Section 12.5). The local people still work hard and keep verbal records of the pedigrees. However, in the larger part of the country crossbreeds are preferred.
Fairs and exhibitions are held all over the country during the spring season. The horse and cattle show at Lahore and the Sibi Mela in Balochistan are the largest fairs. Horse, dog and oxen races, and pegging competition are held. Competitions simulating water lifting from wells, in which the number of rounds run in a fixed time judges the winner, are also held throughout the country. Pigeons for display and pigeon flight competitions are also popular sport. The winning animal is highly prized.
Eid ul Azha, the Muslim festival in memory of the sacrifice of the prophet Abraham, has a special meaning for the livestock farmers of Pakistan. Most people sacrifice goats, sheep, bulls and cows, camels and a few yaks. Most livestock farmers rear the animals for sale on this festival, and the prices shoot up during the Eid season
Pakistan has provided excellent milk breeds to the world in addition to dual-purpose breeds of cattle. These same breeds are now threatened in the country. This is a result of the tremendous cross breeding programmes. The Sahiwal breed is threatened and the red Sindhi is on the verge of extinction. Cross breeding programmes reached a climax in the seventies, when the F1 (first generation of crossbred animals) stock increased milk production tremendously. However, recessive genes surfaced in the F2 (the offspring of the F1 stock) generation, while there was complete chaos in the F3 (the offspring of the F2 stock) generation. The repeated crossbreeding did not serve the purpose of producing maximum milk-producing cattle as exhibited in the poorer quality F3 stock. Initially the Livestock Department motivated the farmers to undertake cross breeding and did the same in the government experimental farms. Upon realising these negative impacts, the government farms stopped crossbreeding. However, farmers still prefer to cross local breeds. The extension and outreach activities of the livestock department are ineffective, so this change in farm practice has not been advocated widely. There is a need for the government to take up this issue and preserve the prized local breeds.
The people of Pakistan prefer buffalo milk over that of the cow. This is due primarily to the latter containing 6-9 percent fat content as compared to 3.5 % fat in the former. Buffalo (Bubalis bubalis) milk sells easily and at a 20% higher price in the market. This factor makes cow farming less attractive. The pre-industrial period also had a need for oxen as draught animals, but now tractors have become popular, making oxen redundant. Due to these reasons, the keeping of cows and local breeds is on the decline.16 The lack of incentives for farmers to conserve the local breeds is the other factor that threatens the local breeds.