Accepted Paper:

Changes in the pastoralism of Merak, in the far-eastern highlands of Bhutan, and their historical and social background  


Tetsuya Inamura (The Open University of Japan)

Paper short abstract:

Herders in Merak used to raise only yaks and their hybrids, but recently they raise jatsams (hybrids between local cattle and muthun bull), “jatsam zoms” (hybrids between jatsam and yak bull) and other types of hybrids. We discuss the historical and social factors of this change.

Paper long abstract:

Herders in Merak, in the far-eastern highlands of Bhutan, traditionally used to raise only yaks and their hybrids, but about 60 years ago they introduced jatsams (hybrids between local cattle and mithun bulls) and mithun bulls from downstream villages. In recent years they are raising increasing numbers of jatsams, jatsam zoms (hybrids between jatsams and yak bulls), yangkum zoms and other types of hybrids (including multiple crosses of yaks, local cattle, and mithuns). One factor that has led to these changes is a lack of Goleng bulls (a Tibetan breed of cattle) due to the border conflict that erupted between China and India in 1962 and the resulting cessation of trade with Tibet. Another is the decrease and deterioration of high pastureland for yak grazing and the pressure of population increase, which has led to a demand for animals that can be pastured in lowland pastures. Yet another factor is economic. Jatsams and local cattle are easy to obtain, jatsam zoms produce large quantities of milk, and through backcrossing with mithun the reproduction of jatsam zoms has become possible. These changes coincide with the needs of herders who require more cash than in the past because of the introduction of a market economy. The diversification of raised animals, especially new type of hybrids, is an unique strategy of adaptation by the herders of Merak to their historical and social circumstances.

Panel P043
Development and pastoralists (Commission on Nomadic Peoples/NME panel)