(The Takin, which the locals refer to as ‘Drong Gyemtsi’ is the National Animal of Bhutan. It has the face of a goat and the body of a cow. The unique looking animal is associated with Drukpa Kunley, a fifteenth century saint, commonly referred to by Westerners as the ‘Divine Madman,’ and sometimes even as ‘The Original Gangsta of Tantra’ due to his unorthodox ways of teaching. The wandering saint used humor, folk songs and sexual metaphors and innuendos to rid society of its false moralities and hypocrisy. Drukpa Kunley’s pithy sayings and ribald songs, the details and events of his life, are legendary in this part of the world where he stands out as an irrepressible cultural hero and maverick whose exploits are the highlights of local folklore. He was greatly loved in Bhutan and the other Himalayan regions for his earthy sense of humor and easy manner of propagating the esoteric tantric teachings.
The Takin is a vulnerable species with some of the subspecies on the endangered list, and found in Nepal, Burma, China and Bhutan at altitudes between 1000 – 4000 meters. Related to the musk ox, its unique and odd appearance has given rise to numerous comparisons and names such as the Cattle Chamois, Gnu Goat, Bee-stung Moose, and the local term Drong Gyemtsi. As odd as its physical characteristics, the animal exhibits equally unusual behavioral traits such as its seasonal solitary and group tendencies. The Takin is a ‘browser’ herbivore that migrates from higher altitudes, subsisting on trees, shrubs and alpine plants. Indeed the animal is regarded as the National Animal not merely for its unique characteristics but reportedly for its hardiness and adaptability to survive in the harshest of conditions.
Legend has it that the saint created this unique looking creature after a meal of goat and cow meat during which he was supposedly fed more of the leaner parts. He is then supposed to have stuck the skull of the goat on the carcass of the cow and told it to go feed as it obviously hadn’t fed well whilst alive. It is maintained that the carcass miraculously came to life and ran towards the mountains, thus resulting in this never seen before animal coming to life. And that, according to our elders, is how our National Animal came into being.
Some years ago the Fourth King decided that a zoo was not in keeping with Bhutan’s environmental and religious convictions, and therefore the Takins were set free. But despite being released the animals refused to return to the wild, preferring to scavenge around the streets of Thimphu instead. Eventually the only solution was to build an enclosure around them. )