During our adventure in Bhutan, we traveled to see the Takin, the National Animal of Bhutan. Known by locals as the “Dong Gyem Tsey”, it is without a doubt one of the strangest animals I have ever photographed. Legend has it that during the 15th century, Lama Drukpa Kunley – also known as “The Divine Madman” – who, after devouring an entire cow and an entire goat was asked to perform a miracle. So he took the goats head, placed it on the carcass of the cow and commanded the animal, now known in Bhutan as the Takin, to come to life.
- Photos of National Bison Range in Montana
- Nomad Festival on Our Bhutan Trip
- Climbing to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
The National Animal of Bhutan is actually a type of sheep which is found in wooded valleys as well as rocky, grass-covered alpine zones at altitudes from 1,000 and 4,500 meters above sea level. (3,300 ft to 14,800 ft). The Takin grazes in family groups of about 20 individuals and is sometimes seen in groups of over 300 near salt licks, and hot springs high in the Himalayan mountains.
Takins secrete a strong-smelling oily substance over its whole body, most likely causing the swollen appearance of the face. This caused one biologist, George Schaller, to compare the Takin to a “bee-stung moose.”
Takin feed in the early morning and late afternoon, usually grazing on leaves and grasses, as well as bamboo shoots and flowers. The Takin is vulnerable to a number of predators including the Asiatic black bear and the leopard, but their main predators are humans, who hunt them usually for meat as well as their pelts. Due to overhunting and the destruction of their natural habitat, the National Animal of Bhutan is at risk and they are considered Endangered in China.