Across China: Xinjiang's herders ride wave of galloping horse industry
URUMQI, May 12 (Xinhua) -- For those visiting the famed Kalajun Grassland in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, riding a horse to venture into the mountains is a tempting proposition.
It takes about two hours on horseback, which means a net income of some 160 yuan (about 22.6 U.S. dollars) for Serik Hulalbek, a member of the horse ride tourism service team at the grassland in Tekes County, Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture.
"During the peak season, I can take three tourists for a horse ride every day. The horse is like a cash cow thanks to the booming development of tourism," said Serik, who used to live below the country's poverty line and relied on farming and herding to live.
Home to vast grasslands and the majority of China's ethnic Kazakh population, Ili is one of the country's important habitats for horses. As the local economy grows, the horse is no longer a major transport vehicle thanks to the improved infrastructure, with its value going beyond its meat and milk amid a rapidly growing equine industry.
For Erbosun Abuduhan, a herdsman in Ili's Xinyuan County, pregnant mare urine (PMU) is a new source of income.
One kg of PMU can sell for 4.3 yuan to 7.8 yuan, and Erbosun raked in over 20,000 yuan from last December to March, the prime season for collecting PMU.
This unusual product is collected for estrogen that can be used as a hormone replacement for treating women experiencing menopause, said Xu Zhiyong, general manager of Xinjiang Nuziline Bio-pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., a local company focusing on PMU drugs.
The company collects PMU from about 400 households, with nearly half of them previously poor families. "We have strict management rules and a fixed daily collection quota to ensure that the PMU is collected in a humane way," Xu added.
Xu's company is also making a foray into developing horse milk and horse fat products, as they boast huge potential in the healthcare and cosmetics markets.
Besides raising horses and processing equine products, the horse-related tertiary sector is also making strides in Xinjiang with equestrian performances and horse racing growing in popularity.
Niman, who runs a horse raising cooperative in Ili's equine industry hub Zhaosu County, is a beneficiary of the emerging horse racing market. One of his beloved horses is nicknamed "little black wind" due to its dark coat and fast gallop. The hybrid horse is a high-flier in various racing contests, earning over 900,000 yuan in prizes for its owner.
"It's my treasure. I have two herders take care of it," Niman said.
Known as the hometown of one of the country's best horse breeds, Zhaosu has turned the whole county into an equine tourism area, with horse-related patterns, sculptures and even road names seen almost everywhere. An international horse tourism festival is held in Zhaosu each summer, where Chinese and foreign visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of galloping horses and equestrian performances.
Zhaosu aims to lift the equine sector's industrial value to over 1.5 billion yuan by 2020, with the average net income for participating individuals topping 3,000 yuan.
"I will keep upping the ante in the equine business until Xinjiang's horses are known across the country and the rest of the world," Niman said.