In my search for mountain goats, I recently came across markhors, which at first I convinced my dad were really wild wolves. To be fair, we were looking up the national animal of Chechnya, which turned out to be a wolf (and I had guessed that beforehand), but for some reason markhors came up instead so I fully went with it. Afterwards though, I did some intense research and fell in love with these wonderfully cuddly creatures with majestic and curly horns. These adorable mountain goats live along the Himalayan mountains in many countries including India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and a few other ’stans. It’s a transnational effort to be sure; in fact, we should be cautious that they may be starting the next caliphate. And it turns out that markhors are the national animal of Pakistan, but no one is really quite sure why
In fact, when Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) tried to add a picture of a markhor along with the national flag to their planes, it was shot down by the Chief Justice, Brother Nisar. It would have cost 3.4 million rupees to change the logo on each plane, a number that the Managing Director of PIA conveniently forgot to mention. Brother Nisar then went ahead and questioned the Director’s qualifications, asking why an economist was made managing director of PIA. The Chief Justice had a few other complaints that day and used his position to the fullest, masha’Allah brother very proud of him, to ask why his flight to Islamabad the other day was an hour and a half late. Another loss for the markhors… what is an endangered species to do?
Currently there are less than 2,500 markhors in the world, so one for almost every Vassar student and maybe a few professors as well. Part of the reason their numbers are dwindling is because they are hunted for their horns (which make pretty sick trophies), skin (which can get you a lot of money and fancy leather outfits) and meat (because these are pretty hefty goats). All in all, you can’t say that people are not making full use of the animal—mubarak, very resourceful. But I would much rather cuddle with one.
There are 5 different types of markhors, which I have come across in my research, but if anyone knows of any more I would, dil khol ke, welcome them into my dorm room and a TA possibly. We have Astor, Bukharan, Kabul, Kashmir and Suleiman markhors all available and mainly differing in their horns and regions where you can find them. But thanks to (every poli sci major’s favorite word) globalization, they are found in zoos near us, so there is no need to scale the mountains of Uzbekistan. I’m sure the rock-climbing club can train for other equally worthy causes.
Why the sudden interest in markhors, you ask, besides how immensely cool and amazing they are? Well, I am pushing for markhors to become Vassar’s symbol (thank you Pakistan Airlines for giving it up) and to have at least one brought to campus, inshallah. This is our ideal animal; not only can it scale up to 13,000 ft above sea level (take that global warming), but also they really like to graze, like really really, as in they can spend 12-14 hours a day grazing. They love resting in the middle of the day and are also herbivores (think grass, shrubs and twigs), so for all those Vassar kids trying to become vegan, time to seize the day. And they are only active twice a day…majja ni life.
The name markhor, which is Persian مارخور means snake killer/eater. While I am sure that snakes have been stepped on to protect our little baby markhors, it was probably more as a defense mechanism than anything. The name is derived from myths and tales surrounding markhors; stories would be recounted of how they used their curly horns to make snake shish kebabs. Another reason why we want them around: even one would be enough to stop our imminent snake infestation (part of this process would be to implement a multi-pronged snake infestation plan).
Markhors are featured in Chitrali mythology, developed out of the Chitral region, which is located, you guessed it: in the mountains and at a conjecture of South, Central, West and East Asia, in case you needed a compass visualization. According to the myths, each markhor flock is protected by a peri پری (fairy), and if hunters wanted to kill one, they had to offer up a sacrifice. I haven’t gotten much clarification as to what the sacrifice has to be, so, for now, I will accept baked goods, unopened tunnels and really comfy blankets (not for any personal use of course). To be clear, we’re just trying to grab one, not kill it, but in the case of an accident, Pratt House does have a halal kitchen for a reason…
And now enough from me. If you were not already convinced that Vassar needs a markhor, here is a moving testament from our very own widely known and celebrated mountain goat expert, Nandeeta Bala ji ’22, who said, “Markhors are the cutest, funnest, wholesomest, cuddliest (yes, I can tell by looking) goats. There is no better way for students to take a global perspective on fundamental bovine issues and to enhance their well-being by venerating the emblem of a balanced lifestyle. I have heard countless seniors gush, ‘I want to be a markhor after graduation.’ We need to do this for our Vassar students. Help us all realize that anything is possible!” In fact, we already have word that an alumna, Samirah “Auntyji” Aziz ’21, is well on her way to becoming a sustainably fashionable markhor. Please contact her for further information on the spiritual process.
Think of the possibilities, people. Vassar’s diversity scoring would be off the charts. A foreign mountain goat that is pretty ethnically ambiguous, definitely does not speak English and is most likely religiously plural would look really good in photos. If spacing is a concern, I can personally assure you that Professor Muppidi would be more than happy to house one in his office, koi aitraaz nahi. It would fit right in with its brethren. If we can imagine elephants in rooms, I don’t see why we can’t have markhors in offices.
Vassar, you can do it. Embrace the Markhor Way so we can scale greater heights together.
Bonus: Watch a cool animated film featuring a markhor, the hero you didn’t know you needed: Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor (2018) – IMDb