The Kashgar Livestock Market

The Kashgar livestock market on Sunday is a popular tourist draw in Xinjiang, so much so that the busiest day for tourists departures at the China-Kyrgyzstan border is always Monday. We dropped by for a look recently and found the place full of camels, cattle, horses, goats, and sheep (but mostly sheep). Not to mention butchers, food vendors, and other secondary trades attached to livestock. Here’s a few snapshots of the fun. (Disclaimer: At least one photo is a bit graphic.)
IMG_6708The market is a twenty minute drive from the center of Kashgar and takes place in a huge dirt lot outfitted with some wooden pens. For vendors the market involves a lot of milling about, casually showcasing the animals, and talking over purchases. In appearance at least, the market is far less structured than livestock auctions you may have seen in the American Midwest (where I grew up).

IMG_6690Scouting a purchase involves taking proper inventory of the goods. This fellow takes the measure of a sheep. It’s also interesting to note that the market is a largely a man’s affair, and more than a few show up in suits or suit jackets. This actually isn’t unusual attire around here, but for westerners it makes for an interesting contrast with how we often think of shepherds and farmers.


This is the camel pen. I really (like really) wanted a camel. That little guy on the left–the one with gingivitis–he’s mine. I want Left Camel. I want him. By the way, these are bactrian camels (the kind with two humps). They’re native to Central Asia and far rarer than the single-hump dromedary camels of the Middle East and North Africa.


Among hundreds of traders, there were probably about ten or so tourists like myself surveying the market. A Han Chinese girl also touristed the market in her Sunday best. From what I saw, the livestock traders took more photos of her than she took of them. Always dress to impress, because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.


The market is not for the faint of heart. Several butchers go to work on the spot, preparing cuts that are weighed and resold. Watch out, this fellow in turquoise slacks is about to remove the stomach.IMG_6699

In this photo, two men chat with a butcher as he makes some cuts and hangs up his work for display. These guys are all wearing the traditional green doppa (from the Turkik word “hat”), which is a small, boxy hat worn by Uyghur men. The doppa has migrated across the steppe over the centuries, so you may see Uzbeks and Tajiks wear it too.


It’s not all animal-trade at the Sunday market in Kashgar. Other vendors cook meals or sell snacks, like this boy selling watermelon to passersby.

IMG_6728There’s also a lot of sitting and waiting as sales are made. This kid is waiting on dad. (He reminded me of myself when my mom would take me shopping at JC Penney’s and I’d have to stay busy. Except this kid dresses better than I did, and he has a motorcycle.)


There’s no room for bugs at the livestock market. Back in Kashgar proper, at the in-town Sunday market where mostly clothes and hard goods are sold, a man sells scorpions from several large bins. Other goods sold here include furs, watches, lamps, toys, knockoff crocs, and just about everything else you can think of.