I was able to witness about fifty Markhor, which is also the national animal of Pakistan, when I was visiting Chitral a few weeks ago. They came sprinting down the mountains at sunset to drink water from the river and it was one of the most beautiful and fascinating sights I have ever seen. Luckily, we were also able to take a few pictures of them, which I have posted for you to see.
The Markhor is a member of the goat family, which may up to 110 kg (240 lb). It has unique spiraling horns, which may be straight or flare outwards depending on the subspecies. The goat occupies dry cliffside habitats in sparsely wooded mountainous regions at altitudes ranging from 700 m from November to May up to 4000 m in the summer. In the spring and summer time, the markhor mainly grazes on tussocks of grass and when it’s dried up, they browse on leaves and twigs.
According to Wikipedia, markhor are crepuscular, active in the early morning and late afternoon. Females gather in herds of up to nine individuals and males are normally solitary. During mating season, males fight each other for the attention of females. These fights involve lunging until the two males’ horns are locked together, and then twisting and pushing until one male falls.
The animal is largely found in the Northern Areas of Pakistan especially in Chitral, Diamer, and Astore regions, parts of Balistan and in Hazarganji-Chiltan National Park near Quetta.
Unfortunately, our national animal is an endangered one. The reason for the markhor’s decline include intensive hunting for trophies, meat, and the Asian medicine market along with disturbance and loss of habitat due to expanded human settlement and competition from domestic livestock.