On the Bora Chung, or Ground Fish of Bootan.To the Secretaries to the Asiatic Society

J.T. Pearson

Gentlemen. The following account of the Bora Chung, or as it may be called, the Ground-Fish of Bootan, is so extraordinary, as to be worthy I think of the attention of the Asiatic Society, for so far as I know it is new. I am indebted for it to Mr. Russell, of Rungpore.

The Bora Chung is a thick cylindrical fish, with a body somewhat like a pike, but thicker, with a snub nose, and grows from three pounds weight, to a length of two feet. The colour is olive green, with orange stripes; and the head speckled with crimson spots. It is eaten by the natives of Bootan, and said to be delicious.

The Bora Chung is found in Bootan, on the borders of the Chad Nuddee, which falls into the river Dhallah, a branch of which runs, into the Teestah at Paharpore. It is not immediately on the brink of the water, however, that the fish is caught, but in perfectly dry places, in the middle of a grass jungle, sometimes as far as two miles from the river. The natives search thiq jungle till they find a hole, about four or five inches in diameter, and into it they insert a stick to guide their digging a well, which they do till they come to the water; a little cow-dung is then thrown into the water, when the fish rises to the surface. Mr. Russell has known them to be from six to nineteen feet deep in the earth.

Mr. Russell describes their other habits as not less curious. They are invariably found in pairs, two in each hole; never more nor less. He has not met with any less than three to four pounds; but as before said, they grow to the length of two feet. He has seen them go along the ground, with a serpentine motion, very fast, though the natives say they never voluntarily rise above the surface. In some places they are very common, and live a long time when taken out of the water, by being sprinkled over occasionally with that fluid. One which Mr. Russell thinks to be the female, is always Smaller, and not so bright in colour as the other.

I regret this account is so imperfect, especially as I have seen the fish, for when I was at Titalya in March last, Mr. Russell very kindly sent me two of them. Unfortunately I was on the eve of starting with my family for the hills, and in the bustle of packing up, I had not time to examine them, intending on ray arrival here to describe, and preserve the specimens for the Society. And still More unfortunately, I was unable to convey them up here, having been for want of carriage obliged to leave even many of the necessaries of life behind. Mr. Russel undertook to bring them with him; but one of them died and was thrown away in the plains, and the other made its escape from the vessel in which it was confined at Punkahbarry. He has promised to procure other specimens, so I hope soon to have the pleasure of sending some to the Society's Museum. 1

J. T. PEARSON. DARJEELING, 10th July, 1839.


1 After1839 when McClelland had received the first specimen of this fish, he considered this species as C. barca. Until 1845 when he classified this fish to be a new species: Channa amphibeus (McClelland, 1845) . Most of the time, it was synonymized still with C. barca due to Francis Day' Fishes of India . Only until recently, a revalidation of specimen made it a valid species. See: Musiksinthorn for further details. [snakeheads.org] Back

Acknowledgement and Source(s)

This text was originally published under the above title in: The journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal . vol.8 pp. 551-552 , 1839.

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