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The Takin – Bhutan’s National Animal

The reason for selecting the takin as the national animal is based both upon its uniqueness and its strong association with the country’s religious history and mythology. When the great saint Lama Drukpa Kunley, the Divine Madman, visited Bhutan in the late 15th century, a large congregation of devotees gathered from around the country to witness his magical powers. The people urged the lama to perform a miracle.

The saint however, in his usual unorthodox way, demanded that he first be served a whole cow and a goat for lunch. He devoured these with relish and left him only the bones. After letting out a large and satisfied burp, he took the goats 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 rose 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 clumsy looking animals can be seen grazing on the mountainsides of Bhutan.

Dogs are a visible part of Bhutanese culture. As a Buddhist nation, Bhutan and its people do not believe in euthanizing or fixing dogs. As a result you will no doubt come across hundreds of wild dogs during your stay in Bhutan. Although most dogs are wild, they are typically very friendly. Dogs are popular with the Bhutanese, who believe that the dog is very close to the human on the reincarnation scale –i.e. you might wind up a dog if you don't live correctly. Lastly, dogs are also favored by some of the saints of Bhutan, for example the Divine Madman who always had a dog at his side.
Black- Necked Crane

The rare and endangered black- necked crane occupies a special place in Bhutanese hearts and folklore. Its arrival every autumn from Tibet inspires songs and dances; it usually heralds the end of the harvesting season and also the time when families start migrating to warmer climates.

Many legends and myths exist about the bird, which the Bhutanese call throng throng karmo. Wetlands of the high mountain valleys of Phobjikha, Bomdeling and Gaytsa serve as the winter habitat for about 400 – 500 birds. Like other cranes, these have an elaborate mating ritual, a dance in which pairs bow, leap into the air and toss vegetation about while uttering loud bugling calls. It can be difficult to distinguish the sexes because the colouration is so similar, but the females are slightly smaller.

The world’s entire population of 5600 to 6000 black- necked cranes breeds in Tibet and Ladakh. As well as Bhutan, they winter in south-central Tibet and northeastern Yunan province in China. Their migration is one of the most difficult in the world. To reach their winter grounds in Bhutan the birds must traverse the highest Himalayan peaks.

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