Want to buy a got, sheep, cow, donkey, chicken, duck, or any other sort of farm animal? Or do you want a free petting zoo with a thousand animals looking for attention? Kashgar might be the place for you. Every Sunday villagers from all over the western part of Xinjiang descend upon this historic silk road town to barter off the animals they have been raising for months or years. Now is the chance to really cash in on those hot tiring days managing your livestock. Unfortunately, we were not in Kashgar on a Sunday, so instead we got to go to the Wednesday market that is in a tiny village an hour outside of town I think I may have preferred this as it is less a tourist attraction and more farmers getting their work done!
Walking through the streets of this tiny town, you would think the Great New York State Fair had landed. There are booths all about selling fried dough, meat on a stick, fresh squeezed fruit juices, and icy watermelon. Stalls are set up selling rugs or clothing or house wares. People on their portable microphones are babbling away about how their cow blood can cure every disease (or something like that given the large attentive crowd). There are Uyghur men lined up along one side of the road getting their beards trimmed and heads shaved. There is a room dedicated to billiards tables with over 30 matches going on to the men betting their days earnings on a game of 8 ball. The parking lot is filled to capacity with donkey carts and the donkeys refueling in the pasture next to the lot. But the real reason we came, and the main attraction that makes this whole show possible is the animal trading!
Right in the middle of the chaos surrounding, their is actually a surprisingly tranquil business being done by the real men. Despite the cows bucking and hawing and the rams trying to bust out of their cages, there are long bearded Uyghur men slowly going around the lot, inspecting teeth and testicles, and discussing potential options with their partners. Once a prospect is chosen, the owner is approached and a deal is calmly made in an oddly civilized manner. The class of a hand shake, the exchange of bills, and the reigns are handed over to the new owner. Despite the wild nature of this market, the deals seem to go very smoothly. There is no yelling, or arguing, or bidding, but just a gentlemanly exchange of goods. Very interesting to watch, yet a semi weekly break of routine for these hard working men. Once the deal is done it is time to load up the donkey cart and then get a hair cut, buy a rug, or sit down and feast on meat that was probably alive just a few hours ago!
Oh, and how do these animals go for? Not knowing how much to expect, but knowing how cheap the meat kebabs are, I was shocked to hear that the average goat went for 1,000 RMB ($153) and the average cow went for 9,000 RMB ($1,384). However, there was this massive bull and inquiring about the price, the man told me it goes for 15,000 RMB or $2,307! So unfortunately I won’t be going home with Uyghur livestock this time…