One of the things you first notice when arriving in a supposedly hi-tech, cosmopolitan, “top-tier metro” city like Bangalore is just how quasi-rural bits of it are, particularly animals roaming the streets full of the notorious traffic.
(This bull, above, was sitting happily on the pavement next to a very busy intersection, when I was on my way to the supermarket a few days ago. There wasn’t much pavement left after he’d sat down, so we were all stepping carefully around him.)
As an animal-lover I’m always glad to see our 4-legged friends wandering about the place, although I do wonder sometimes what they think about all the noise and the terrible air pollution. But Indians are well known for caring for animals — and to Hindus many of them are actually deities, with Hanuman the monkey-god and Lord Ganesha with the elephant’s head being particular favourites in this part of India.
Generally speaking, I think these are the animals I usually see wandering in the streets of Bangalore, in order of frequency.
photo: Fuckecha Nabil @ flickr
By far the most numerous street animals in Bangalore are the stray dogs. A recent article in the Times of India claimed there’s now 1 stray dog for every 37 residents here, or a pack of 5-6 on every street. When I walk home from work, the same dogs are always curled up in more-or-less the same spot, usually in some kind of bed-cum-nest, like a pile of sand or a mound of swept-up-leaves. Although most of them are the same generic-looking sandy-brown street pooch, they’re all very individual as many of them have scars from living and presumably fighting out on the street.
By and large they all seem subdued and friendly enough (if not rather wary of people), but rabies is endemic here, and so I always tend to keep an eye on any pooch nearby just to see how it’s behaving. If the dog has a V-shaped notch cut out of its ear, this is supposed to mean it’s been vaccinated, and if it’s a bitch, sterilised as well. Since Indians are such animal-lovers (trees as well), it seems there’s no question of culling the strays — or certainly not here. One problem seems to be that the contractors who are supposed to be doing the sterilising don’t always actually do it, and since they can have a litter every 6 months, the population can continue to grow rapidly.
There are lots of cows here. Apparently most of them belong to someone or other, but they do tend to wander about in the traffic. Since they’re sacred to Hindus, they usually get quite a bit of leeway amongst the vehicles, although when they’re being a nuisance — such as helping themselves to the fruit and veg at a roadside grocer’s shop — they’re likely to get hit with a stick, or maybe stones thrown at them so they move on.
When I arrived I expected the “exotic” breeds like the ones with the big hump on the back (Brahman — the grey ones are really cool), plus the ubiquitous white ones you always see on documentaries about India, with the straight horns. But I was also surprised to find Friesians here, and there are also some beautiful brown Jerseys knocking around near where I live.
Bullocks pulling carts are common here as well, usually for transporting heavy loads around the city. Slightly more intriguing are the ones that get paraded from door to door brightly-decorated in a “costume”, led by a man playing a noisy reed-instrument and asking for money.
I hadn’t been expecting it when I arrived here, but there are lots of buffalo too — there seem to be a couple of small herds close to where I live (see picture above). Buffalo calves are really cute! Maybe it’s something about their big floppy ears, but they also somehow seem to be grinning contentendly. Walking home one night this week I saw a group of 6 older calves crossing the extremely busy road, which made me a bit nervous as always.
But they didn’t seem bothered by it… a couple of them stopped right in the middle of the road to have a poo, oblivious to the drivers honking their horns, and then carried on to the other side and onto the pavement right in front of me. I detoured slightly — I’m not too worried by cattle, but I know enough about them not to get too close to the back end — and then had just got past them when I heard a man’s voice shouting “Hoy! Hoy!” When I looked round I realised they were his, and they had just run off down the road when he wasn’t looking.
Another surprise was the first time I saw goats here… not that they’re unusual animals, but they tend to be very localised, and from what I can tell mostly in Muslim areas. Goat is eaten here, although I think it’s usually referred to as “Mutton”.
Goats are notorious for eating absolutely anything of course, which is presumably a bonus when you’re trying to raise animals that can live on whatever they find in the street. Another contender for “The Best Photo I Never Took” has to be the goat munching away on a Bollywood film-poster that was fly-posted quite low down on a wall.
As with the buffalos, the young goats are really cute, and I’ve seem some really tiny ones that couldn’t have been more than a couple of weeks old, happily wandering around eating all kinds of rubbish.
There are lots of these, and they are big. The biggest rat I’ve ever seen in my life was in Calcutta, which at first I thought was a cat! They usually seem to mind their own business though, and I’ve only really seen them running in and out of storm drains, and occasionally (and slightly more worrying) running around the wheels of the road-side hand-carts selling chaat.
I don’t see many of these (I guess they’re slightly harder to spot than a buffalo anyway)… and again they’re usually in Muslim areas so I guess they’re for eating. Somehow always funny to see them clucking and scratching around by the side of the road though. They’re really skinny compared to breeds I was used to back home, and look like they’d be ready for a fight at a moment’s notice — maybe it’s because their claws looks so much bigger on a skinny body.
From time to time I see a horse pulling a wagon, or a smaller pony drawing a traditional Tanga with huge cartwheels. In Mysore these are a bit of an attraction and tourists ride around in them, but all the ones I’ve seen in Bangalore are transporting stuff like building materials around the city.
This was another surprise… with the predominant religions being Hinduism and Islam, I never expected to see pigs here. They’re pretty rare, but there’s one rubbish tip close to where I live, and apart from the dogs, and a sizeable colony of loud, screeching fruitbats who only arrive after dusk, there’s also a herd of pigs.
They almost look like wild boar actually, with lots of bristly black hair. Once again, very cute babies! The sows near me seem to have a litter every 3-4 months or so, and my auto drives past them on my way to work every day, so I almost always get to see how they’re progressing.
I saw a donkey wandering through the rush-hour traffic on my way home from work today, which is pretty unusual. It’s only the second donkey I’ve seen in 18 months. The first one was braying loudly and running at full pelt down a busy 1-way street — thankfully, in the right direction, which wasn’t necessarily true of the 2-wheelers.
Like I said, there’s something not quite right about this mix of rural life with being in the fast-growing metropolis of Bangalore, but then again that’s one of the things I love about India — the contrasts and contradictions that you see every single day. And if I see a new litter of piglets trotting about on my way to work, or a bunch of grinning buffalo calves on my way home, it always brings a smile to my face.