Would you believe me if I told you I had spotted the most bizarre creature in the world? Bhutan is a wonderful country for spotting rare and endangered wildlife. We had already seen plenty of bird and monkey species throughout our trip, but had yet to spot Bhutan’s national animal, a unique creature called the Takin, which so baffles zoologists that they don’t even know how to classify it!
Fortunately for us, our itinerary included a stop at the National Takin Preserve just outside of Thimphu, the Bhutanese capital, which afforded us a nice break from the rest of Thimphu’s more traditional sites, like the Traditional Medicine Hospital or training center for Arts & Crafts.
So what exactly is a Takin? Sither, our guide, explained how rumor dictated that one of the many important spiritual figures in Bhutanese Buddhism supposedly took the head of a goat and stuck it on a cow’s body. I don’t know if I really saw that exact combination, but what I can tell you is that it is an bizarre animal!
We entered the compound and from a distance, it appeared we were staring at something along the lines of a misshapen bear. It clearly had goat-like horns and hooves, but its body was of different proportions from a cow.
As we approached the fence, it was immediately clear that these domesticated Takins were quite social and friendly. They pressed their faces against the fence, admiring us with the same intensity in which we admired them. The Takin that greeted us even followed us as we walked along the perimeter of the fence, poking his nose out through the feeding gaps when he came upon them.
The compound also held young Barking Deers , as well as baby Takins (second photo below), which were quite a bit cuter than their full grown versions (and also looked a heck of a lot more bear-like). The young ones rushed around from food source to food source, fighting over a tree branch while neglecting the fact that another identical, yet somehow less desirable one, lay directly next to them. They approached the fence on many occasions to snack on the remains of their breakfast…chick peas.