Budorcas taxicolor Hodgson, 1850
The Takin (pronounced /ˈtɑːkɪn/, Budorcas taxicolor; Tibetan: ར་རྒྱ་; Wylie: ra rgya), is a goat-antelope found in the Eastern Himalayas. There are four subspecies: B. taxicolor taxicolor, the Mishmi Takin; B. taxicolor bedfordi, the Shanxi or Golden Takin; B. taxicolor tibetana, the Tibetan or Sichuan Takin; and B. taxicolor whitei, the Bhutan Takin. Mitochondrial research  shows that takin are related to sheep, its similarity to the muskox being an example of convergent evolution. The takin is the national animal of Bhutan.
Takin stand 100 to 130 cm (39 to 51 in) at the shoulder and weigh up to 350 kg (770 lb). They have been likened to a "bee-stung moose", because of the swollen appearance of the face. They are covered in a thick golden wool which turns black on the under-belly. Both sexes have small horns which run parallel to the skull and then turn upwards in a short point, these are around 30 cm (12 in) long.
Takin are found in bamboo forests at altitudes of 1,000 to 4,500 metres (3,300 to 15,000 ft), where they eat grass, buds and leaves. Takin are diurnal, active in the day, resting in the heat on particularly sunny days. Takin gather in small herds in winter and herds of up to a hundred individuals in the summer; in winter, they move to lower elevations and split into smaller herds of 10-50 individuals, mostly in the Gasa District. As is often seen in bison, old males are often solitary.
A study of the Takin's seasonal movements and winter habitat use is being conducted through the College of Natural Resources of the Royal University of Bhutan by Sonam Zangpo, a Forest Officer in Jigme Dorji National Park.
Several Takin are kept captive in a small zoo in the forested Mothithang neighborhood of Thimphu, where they can be hand-fed by tourists and are obese as a result. His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, ordered the captive Takin released in the 1980's but after they wandered the streets of Thimphu for several weeks, they were recaptured and placed back into captivity.
Bhutan selected the takin as the national animal based on both its uniqueness and its strong association with the country's religious history and mythology. According to legend, when Lama Drukpa Kunley (called "the divine madman") visited Bhutan in the 15th century, a large congregation of devotees gathered around the country to witness his magical powers. The people urged the lama to perform a miracle. However, the saint, in his usual unorthodox and outrageous way, demanded that he first be served a whole cow and a goat for lunch. He devoured these with relish and left only bones. After letting out a large and satisfied burp, he took the goat's head and stuck it onto the bones of the cow. And then with a snap of his fingers, he commanded the strange beast to rise up and graze on the mountainside. To the astonishment of the people the animal arose and ran up to the meadows to graze. This animal came to be known as the dong gyem tsey (takin) and to this day, these animals can be seen grazing in alpine meadows of the high eastern Himalaya. Legend also claims that the Takin exists only in Bhutan.
1. ^ Yanling, S., Smith, A.T. & MacKinnon, J. (2008). Budorcas taxicolor. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 31 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of vulnerable.
* Lonely Planet Bhutan, Tashi Wangchuk.
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