Places We Go / Xinjiang (Uighur Tour)

The Kashgar Livestock Market

Kashgar has a number of extraordinary markets – such as the Night Market or the Sunday Market – and probably the most extraordinary of these is its livestock market.

The Kashgar Livestock Market has been meeting every Sunday on the outskirts of Kashgar for generations. And by generations, I mean at least since Marco Polo visited more than 700 years ago and probably well before then.

Also called the Kashgar Livestock Bazaar, the event launches with Uighur herders and farmers descending on the market space with what seems like every animal in a radius of 50 miles or more. The animals arrive on foot, in the back seats of taxis, in trucks, on the backs of motorcycles, on the backs of other animals – every way imaginable. And they depart in the same manner.

The whole event is noisy, dusty, crowded, chaotic and absolutely should not be missed.

The gates to the livestock market:

entrance-kashgar-livestock-market

Entering the bazaar:

kashgar-livestock-market

Sheep cover the center of the market and most of them are roped together in long rows such as this:

kashgar-livestock-market

kashgar-livestock-market

I was with our Uighur fixer and asked him about the prices for the various animals. For the sheep, he advised me that a small sheep will sell for around 1,300 yuan, while a large sheep can go for up to 4,000 yuan.

At the time of our visit, 1,000 yuan were worth about $165 US dollars.

kashgar-livestock-market

Some herders arrive at the market with more than a hundred animals, while others such as the old boy below arrive with just several:

kashgar-livestock-market

After a potential buyer has carefully inspected the animals, haggling over prices is a short, sharp process with lots of hand gestures… I would compare it to watching Italians argue:

livestock-bazaar-kashgar

A group of sheep that had just been sold:

kashgar-livestock-market

As I mentioned above, the sheep (or goats in the case below) are tied together with an incredibly complex array of ropes and knots. When an animal, or group of animals, is sold the ropes will be expertly adjusted to cut out the exact animals that were purchased and then expertly redeployed to accommodate the new circumstances as the man below is doing:

kashgar-livestock-market

I feel sorry for the animals, but there is no denying this is an interesting site to visit:

kashgar-livestock-bazaar

For sheer numbers, sheep are the dominant animal of the livestock bazaar, but goats are not too far behind:

goats-kashgar-livestock-market

The prices for goats were all over the place, but overall they were cheaper than sheep:

kashgar-livestock-market

A man struggling to control his goats… Some things are the same everywhere in the world:

kashgar-livestock-market

kashgar-livestock-market

The section of the market where cattle are sold… Adults sold for approximately 10,000 yuan, while calves could be had for around 2,000 yuan:

kashgar-livestock-bazaar

I’m not sure if he knew the fate that awaited him, but this one was fighting against his tether for all he was worth:

kashgar-livestock-market

A handsome red bull:

kashgar-livestock-market

A “yakboy” strutting down the section where yaks are sold… He had the confidence of a Texas cowboy, but since his specialty is yaks – that makes him a yakboy, right?

Prices for the yaks varied considerably, but they were always cheaper than cattle:

kashgar-livestock-market

More of the yaks for sale:

yaks-kashgar-livestock-market

Off in the upper corner of the market can be found a selection of donkeys and mules for sale:

donkey-kashgar-livestock-market

Prices for the donkeys and mules varied from 1,500 to 2,500 yuan:

kashgar-livestock-market

In this section of the market one has ample opportunities to be reminded of where the expression “hung like a mule” originates:

kashgar-livestock-market

This group was negotiating furiously over the donkey tied to the back of the truck, but we did not stick around to observe the outcome:

kashgar-livestock-market

Across from the donkeys and mules are the horses that are for sale:

kashgar-livestock-market

Horses can be had for between 5,000 to 8,000 yuan. By comparison, the small, ubiquitous motorbikes in Xinjiang can be had for 3,000 to 4,000 yuan:

horses-kashgar-livestock-market

Although there were none on the day that we visited, camels are also frequently bought, sold and traded in the Kashgar Livestock Market. The camels typically sell for between 10,000 to 15,000 yuan.

Although the market is principally focused on animals, other commercial activities take place there as well. Such as a group of leatherworkers:

leatherworker-kashgar-livestock-market

Or an impressive crew at work shearing (no electric trimmers here) huge numbers of sheep:

sheep-shearing-kashgar-livestock-market

And then, naturally, others are just there to look around…

kashgar-livestock-market

…and observe the goings on:

livestock-market-kashgar

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For those of you that might be curious, below are two videos I shot inside the market… These offer a better sense of the ambiance of the market by capturing the sights and sounds that still images just cannot do:

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3 thoughts on “The Kashgar Livestock Market

  1. Hi Justin! I follow your interesting travel stories, but this time I am very sorry to meet these photos that speak of cruelty.

    I believe that travellers, like us, need to avoid such “romanticised” view of traditions that perpetuate cruelty. I visit such places, as well as farms, as we travel and I am sure these animals probably have a better life than those in our European factories, but showing this spectacle as a touristic must see, instead of critizising it, only adds a positive touch that these creatures do not need.

    I am sorry to be so harsh, please feel free to reply your opinion. I believe it is an important topic for us who wander the world to learn and be awaken :)

    • I don’t think you’re being harsh at all and, further, I appreciate your comment as this is an issue I feel strongly about as well and it’s nice to be reminded on occasion that I am not the only one.

      I suppose that with this post it comes down to perceptions… An article I publish should not be viewed as an endorsement of what I am writing about (the posts on Auschwitz/Birkenau or the recent War for Xinjiang article come to mind) and I hope that is clear to my readers. It is also certainly not my intention to present a romantic view of many of the places I visit. Most of them are grim, horrible places. And I certainly have never intended for the places I profile to be viewed as “touristic must sees”. Those are exactly the sorts of places I do my best to avoid and the last thing I would want to see is tourists visiting the few nice places that I write about and spoiling them.

      My goal with my posts is to simply relay what I have seen as accurately as possible and to provide readers with a sense of what a place is like. I try not to editorialize as my preference is to present the facts without filtering what I have observed through my own opinions and leave it to others to make up their own minds.

      The Kashgar Livestock Market is not a touristic site. It is working market. The animals are not on display for tourists. I did not pay to enter and did not purchase any animals. So, my presence there did nothing to encourage the continuation of such practices. I was a neutral presence. And now the world knows more about what is taking place at the livestock markets. It’s not pretty, but it’s reality.

      • Hi Justin! Thank you very much for this very clear response. I believe bloggers sometimes have more power than we actually think, and although I understand this place was not a tourist spot, I believe we could slowly turn such places into attractions. However, above all, I am very happy to see you are ready for deep insight and discussion, and hope your readers are critical travellers too. I will follow your updates. See you on the net and on the road!

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