Friday, December 18, 2009
No one is sure when the first Holstein cows made the long migration from Holland to the Himalayas, but those interested in such matters speculate that it was in the late 1700’s. It is believed that these Himalayan Holsteins are the purest of modern Holstein cattle as their remote and rocky habitat has isolated them from other breeds for hundreds of years. This remarkable branch of the popular breed of milk cow has adapted well for life in their mountainous habitat.
Mountain Goats, Antelope, and Yaks
Among the unique traits of the Himalayan Holstein are it’s ability to climb with the sureness of hoof of mountain goats, the strength and agility to leap like antelope, and the ability to survive on terrain so barren of vegetation that even a Yak would starve. These remarkable beasts have developed a sense of smell so keen that they can locate a single sprout beneath several feet of snow. They also have become quite adept a raiding the alfalfa fields of villagers in the dead of night utilizing their amazing athleticism to bound easily over the rock fences erected by the villagers.
The Stealth Of A Snow Leopard
Over the years the Himalayan Holstein has become as stealthy as the much-fabled snow leopard. Their Black and White camouflage hides serve them well in the patchy snow and harsh shadows of the higher elevations. It is a rare privilege to see a single Himalayan Holstein let alone a batch (the scientific name for three or more Himalayan Holsteins gathered together in one place). You can imagine, then, my excitement at being able to photograph these three cows as they watched the sunrise.
The Quest For A Stock Photo
For years I had thirsted for a shot of these amazing creatures for my stock picture collection. This was my third trip to the Himalayas in a effort to fulfill that desire. The first two had been disappointments. The closest I had come to sighting one of these rare beasts was some frozen hoof prints on a remote glacier and the stories I heard from my Sherpa guides as we huddled around the campfire at night. But on this, my third expedition, fortune was with me.
Cluster Peaks And Fresh Scat
I had heard rumors among the villagers and Sherpas that Himalayan Holsteins are very found of watching the sunrise and would often climb atop the highest peaks available to catch the burgeoning dawn. Apparently they prefer clusters of sharp peaks that facilitate both a good view of the sunrise and a clear view of any potential threats as well. I was lucky. A local villager had shared with me that he had seen their tracks near just such a cluster of peaks, with relatively fresh scat, to indicate their presence. Nonetheless, I had to wait patiently in a blind, downwind of the peaks, for almost three weeks before the coming light of the dawn revealed these three excellent specimens. I was only able to get this one shot off. Even though they were over a hundred yards away they apparently heard my shutter click and in an instant they had bounded away and out of site.
Base Camp, Laptops, And Stock Photography
Back at my base camp I downloaded my shot onto my laptop. I was elated to see that I had captured a clear, sharp photograph, the only known photograph, of a batch of Himalayan Holsteins. Not just an incredible memory, but also an important and valuable addition to my stock photography collection.