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THE NATIONAL HORSE AND CATTLE SHOW – The Mosaic and the

Message
Mazhar M. Chinoy

Livestock farming has been an integral part of Agriculture in Pakistan. Last


year, while the sector registered a modest growth of around 3%, it accounted
for no less than half of the total value addition to the agriculture sector over
2002-03.

The signature event for this branch of the farming sector is the National
Horse and Cattle Show. This event heralds the advent of spring in the year
and has been an annual feature since the early 50s, held across five days in
the splendour of Lahore. The festival showcases the best of horse and
livestock breeding in Pakistan, and uniquely presents Pakistan’s glorious
culture and chivalrous past with advents in industry and mechanization

The months of February-March present an ideal backdrop for the event.


Winter is just about bowing out, the air is crisp and it is not very hot – the
setting is just right for an enjoyable experience under bright sun-lit skies.
The event is a cultural showpiece. A myriad of popular Folk dances -
performed by some 1200 exotically-dressed dancers from across Pakistan -
Milli Naghmas and melodies from various military bands from around Pakistan
are complemented by daring motorcycle acrobatics. Another popular item
has been the accurate parachute free-fall by personnel from the Special
Services group.

For race enthusiasts, there are Greyhound dog contests where these sleek,
well-trained canines strain to outrun each other in a bid to catch an elusive
electronic “hare”. Another entertaining feature is the bullock-cart race,
mostly unchanged since the thriving days of Indus Valley civilization.

Students from various government schools show they are keen competitors
as they shuffle to the tune of folk music played by the military bands in an
elaborate Callisthenic display of geometric symbols across the stadium
grounds. Dances are not limited to humans – well-trained horses and camels
tap and trot to folk tunes and entertain

Evenings are not down and out as the stadium is lit up for an eye-pleasing
display of a torch-lit march. And if tent-pegging was not difficult enough
during the daylight sessions, an uncanny exhibition of night-time tent-
pegging, first on horses and then on camels is simply a treat to watch.
Fireworks enthrall, and dazzle the night sky

Big ticket items are the prime-bred cows, buffaloes, goats, bulls, heifers, rams
and horses from varying breeds as they are paraded across the grand
Fortress Stadium in a cavalcade of top-class animal asset, testifying to the
incredible potency of livestock breeding practices in the country. The Neeli
Ravi buffalo, Dajal sheep, cows from Tharparkar and Kankrej are some
riveting examples of livestock rivaling the best in the world. These animals
are graded across physical fitness and milk-production and handy cash
awards are on offer for the most competitive – Sindh breeds normally take
away the show over the former while Punjab outclasses all over milk
production. These animals are a source of pride for the breeder and an
proper affirmation of their hard work and produce is immensely motivating
for even bigger achievements. For many, just the exhibition of their animals
in a national festival is considered reward enough, which is why consistency
in holding this event is crucial to keep the spirits up. The 2004 show was held
after an 8 year hiatus, widening the gap between establishment preach and
practice and cultivating the perception of the event as a trivial pursuit.

Apart from a vivid display of culture and chivalry, industrial products from
around Pakistan are also on display at an exhibition nearby which presents an
excellent opportunity for exhibitors to exchange industry experiences across
the four provinces.

While the show is a riveting experience and is excellently organized, it is


normally marred by thin attendance. For security reasons, many seats in
most enclosures are only filled by government officials and security
personnel. Some blame also goes to the authorities who fail to throw the
gates open for the general public. Another characteristic pitfall has been the
rather mundane commentary that accompanies the events – upto five
commentators are at hand seemingly to merely narrate the proceedings as
they happen without any backdrop or scene-sets to the events

Perhaps more needs to be done to ensure that the show is not just an
exhibition promoting men and animals at their best – the message should not
be lost that the event aspires to promote the sectors of agriculture, livestock
and industry. The focus of the multi-faceted event should be on encouraging
farmers to further raise the standard of horse and cattle breeding in the
country, reap its benefits and rally to promote unity, synergy, and healthy
competition.