DONKEY BREEDS OF NORTH-EASTERN BALOCHISTAN, PAKHTOONKHUA, AND SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN


Abstract


The donkey is a very important draught animal in north-eastern Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and southern Afghanistan. In this region, it is mostly used for pastoralism, pneumatic wheel carting, and light agricultural operations. The region is the habitat of many livestock breeds and the donkey is one of the most important. Unfortunately, the role of the donkey is never praised by scientists and policymakers of the region. Studies of the breeds are even scarcer. This study was, therefore, conducted to discover the genetics of the donkeys of the region. The research was based on a survey report, prepared using a pre-tested questionnaire according to the
perspectives of the donkey keepers and breeders. It was found that there are two donkey breeds (Shinghari and Sperki) in the region, which each play important role in providing draught power in pastoral migration and other draught operations. This study suggests further work on the issues related to the donkey, especially its socio-economic role in the life of donkey herders of the region.


Introduction


The study area (mostly composed of Pashtoon land) is the habitat of many important livestock breeds. The region has a very rich history. Avesta, the holy book of Zoroaster written in 2570–2523 BP, named the region Orawah. The expanse was also called Arya Warsha (‘the place for grazing’). The Pashto word is ‘Warsh’ (grazing land). The region is still very famous for nomadic life and extensive livestock production. The area lies in a semiarid region, receiving 200–500mm precipitation bimodal. The region receives its precipitation both from the summer monsoon and Mediterranean breeze. There is an extensive livestock production system in the region. The livestock keepers practice nomadic, seminomadic, and sedentary production systems. The donkey, especially the Shinghari, is kept by the Afghan nomads and the Shinghari donkey breeders of north-eastern Balochistan. The Afghan nomads usually use the Shinghari donkey for pastoral migration. The migratory period starts with the onset of winter. A migration may originate from
central and southern Afghanistan and may end up in any part of Balochistan or the Indus plains. With the onset of the spring season, the nomads return to the mountainous areas. The movement is along traditionally fixed routes. The migration involves both pastoral and trading activities: the migrants are accompanied by their flocks and trade goods which they transport on camels. The sperki breed of the donkey is mainly used for light work, carting, and water transportation. This breed is mainly used by the semi-nomadic livestock keepers and the sedentary peoples. 

Materials and methods


This study was conducted in 2009. Data were collected on the habitat, phenotypic characteristics of the donkey, vegetation of the region, donkey population size, and trend, and special traits of the donkey, e.g. hardiness, disease resistance, walking ability, etc. The donkey’s economic importance and the socio-cultural role were discussed with the donkey herders on a pre-tested questionnaire. This study was entirely based on the information given by the donkey keepers, and the breeds were documented according to the perspectives of the relevant breeders.


Results and discussion

There are two breeds of donkeys in the region. The Sperki breed is mostly found in the Suleiman mountain region, while the Shinghari breed is found in southern Afghanistan and the adjoining area of Kakar Khurasan. Larger breeding herds of Shinghari breed are found in the Suleiman mountain region (north-eastern Balochistan). Both breeds are very important for work: they are very hardy and drought-resistant animals. Each breed is discussed in turn, giving its qualitative characteristics.

Shinghari Breed


Habitat

The production area of this breed is Khurasan, the Suleiman mountain region, and the Marri and Bugti hills. The nuclei of the breed are Kakkal of Kibzai tribe, Meerkhani of Buzdar tribe, Salatha and Hazargat of Maghdozai tribe, Zamari, Shighala of Mardanzai tribe, Sharan of Babakarkhail tribe, Kohai of Issot, Goshani area Baloch tribe, and Masuri tribe of Bugti area. The nomads are the main traders and users of the breed.


Phenotypic characteristics

There are many colors in the Shinghari breed of donkey, but the dominant and selective color is white. The breed is large and well adapted to the ecology of the area. It can carry a load on its back up to 240kg on the plain and 160kg in mountainous areas. Age at first mating is 2–4 years depending upon feed availability and type of work. Vegetation: It consumes all types of grasses and bushes, and will even eat bark and wood from trees in times of feed scarcity.
Population: There are about 1.2 million Shinghari donkeys and the trend is increasing in breeding herds. The sporadic use by ordinary people and carters in cities is decreasing because of Chinese-made rickshaws. However, a decrease in the cities is made up for by the mining industry.

Special traits


• Very hardy and consumes very fibrous feeding materials
• No leech infestation because it drinks water with closed jaws
• Highly resistant to diseases
• Very fit to work in mountainous terrain
• Can walk long distances, making it fit for the nomadic system
Economic importance: It is used equally by city carters, nomads, and pastoral people. It is also widely used in the chromite mines, where demand for it is increasing. The main marketing place is Mangrota camel fair. The price of a vigorous healthy male may reach 50,000 Rupees per head.

Sperki breed


Habitat

The production area of this breed is for the Shinghari, i.e. Khurasan, the Suleiman mountain region, and the Marri and Bugti hills. It is mostly found in the Kohlu district.

Sperkie donkey breed in Musakhail district of Balochistan

Phenotypic characteristics

Small, very wild, and not easy to handle, it is a threat to the Shinghari breed because of its high libido and ability to mate with Shinghari females. It can carry a load on its back up to 160kg on the plain and 60–80kg in mountainous areas; it is used mainly for water transportation and light agricultural operations. Age at first mating is 2 years depending upon feed availability and type of work.
Vegetation: It consumes all types of grasses and bushes, and will even eat bark and wood from trees in times of feed scarcity.

Population

There are about 0.5 million Sperki donkeys; the trend is stable or even decline.
Special traits:
• Very hardy and consumes very fibrous feeding materials
• No need for any care and management
• Highly resistant to diseases
• Ability to run fast


Economic importance

This breed is mainly used for water transportation and light agricultural operations. The children of nomads are also carried by this donkey. In the cities of Punjab and Sindh, it is used to pull light carts; in these provinces it is used as a game animal for cart racing, hence fetching a high price.


Conclusion


The region has significant animal genetic resources and the donkey is one of the most important and useful of them. The donkey works hard for a long time but its role is not appreciated. Physical cruelty, wounds, and low-grade feeding material are the common problems of the donkey in the region. There is no veterinary facility for this neglected animal. It is time to help the donkey of the region and mobilize donkey owners to give proper attention and care to this neglected animal.

13 replies

  1. It’s the same story the world over, donkeys are universally overworked and unappreciated. But if it wasn’t for the Donkey Sanctuary, the Brooke and similar organisations, things would be even worse.

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  2. sir in this report there is no information about horse breeds. does pakistan has any other breed of donkey except shinghari and spirki?

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  3. The donkey breeds, I mentioned is in Balochistan. Still the breeds of the South and South-West Balochistan are not documented. The horse breed in Pakistan is Balochi. Other breeds especially Thoroughbred is imported. Some local breeds might be there but no elaborated knowledge is available.

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