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Title: Mahseer  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Nainital Lake, Rewa division, Madhya Pradesh, Cyprininae, Berkelah Falls
Collection: Cyprininae, Fish Common Names, Fish of Asia, Indian Culture
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Teleostomi
Superorder: Ostariophysi
Order: Cypriniformes
Suborder: Cyprinoidei
Family: Cyprinidae
Subfamily: Cyprininae
Genus: Tor
Gray, 1834

Rainboth, 1985
Mirza & Javed, 1985


See text for species.

Mahseer (Hindi: महाशीर or महासीर; Urdu: مہاشیر‎) is the common name used for the genera Tor, Neolissochilus, and Naziritor in the family Cyprinidae (carps).[1][2][3] The name mahseer is however more often restricted to members of the genus Tor.[4] The range of these fish is from Malaysia, Indonesia, across southern Asia including the Indian Peninsula and Pakistan.[5][6][7] They are commercially important game fish, as well as highly esteemed food fish. Mahseer fetch high market price, and are potential candidate species for aquaculture.[8] Several of the larger species have suffered severe declines, and are now considered threatened due to pollution, habitat loss and overfishing.

The taxonomy of the mahseers is confusing due to the morphological variations they exhibit. In developing strategies for aquaculture and propagation assisted rehabilitation of mahseer species, there is a need to resolve taxonomic ambiguities.[9]

Mahseers inhabit both rivers and lakes, ascending to rapid streams with rocky bottoms for breeding. Like other types of carps, they are omnivorous, eating not only algae, crustaceans, insects, frogs, and other fish, but also fruits that fall from trees overhead.

The first species from this group were scientifically described by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton in 1822, and first mentioned as an angling challenge by the Oriental Sporting Magazine in 1833, soon becoming a favorite quarry of British anglers living in India.[10] The golden mahseer is the largest member of the group and one of the largest cyprinids; it has been known to reach 2.75 m (9 ft 0 in) in length and 54 kg (119 lb) in weight, although specimens of this size are rarely seen nowadays.[11] In addition to being caught for sport, mahseer are also part of commercial fishing and ornamental or aquarium fish.


  • Etymology 1
  • Species 2
    • Genus Tor 2.1
    • Genus Neolissochilus 2.2
    • Genus Naziritor 2.3
  • In heraldry 3
  • Current problems in Himachal Pradesh 4
  • References 5
  • Other sources 6
  • External links 7


The Hindi name of mahāsir, mahāser, or mahāsaulā is used for a number of fishes of the group. Several sources of the common name mahseer have been suggested: It has been said to be derived from Sanskrit, while others claim it is derived from Indo-Persian, mahi- fish and sher- tiger or tiger among fish in Persian. Alternatively, mahā-śalka, meaning large-scaled, as the scales are so large that Francis Buchanan mentions that playing cards were made from them at Dacca. Another theory by Henry Sullivan Thomas suggests mahā-āsya: great mouth.[12] The name mahasher is commonly used in Urdu, Punjabi and Kashmiri languages in Pakistan for this fish and is said to be made up of two local words: maha = big and sher = lion as it ascends in the hilly rivers and streams of Himalaya courageously. It is also found in Nepal, where it is called sahar. (British anglers in India called them the Indian salmon.)


Advertisement for Mahseer fishing tackle 1897

Sen and Jayaram restrict the term mahseer to members of the genus Tor. However, the few species of genus Neolissochilus and single species of genus Naziritor are also called as mahseer due to their big size scales and some similarities.[4]

Genus Tor

The genus Tor includes:[13]

Genus Neolissochilus

The genus Neolissochilus includes:[14]

Genus Naziritor

The genus Naziritor includes:[15]

In heraldry

Kurwai State coat of arms with a Mahseer as supporter.

Mahseer was an important symbol in the heraldry of certain Muslim-ruled former princely states of the Subcontinent such as Baoni, Bhopal, Kurwai and Rampur. Dost Mohammad Khan's son Yar Mohammad received from Nizam-ul-Mulk the insignia of the Maha Muratib (the dignity of the Fish).[16] The insignia became part of the Bhopal State's coat of arms.

The Mahseer fish as an emblem of the highest honour in royalty is allegedly from Persian origin and was adopted by the courts of Oudh and the Paigah nobles of Hyderabad State, being later passed down to other states of the area.[17] It also represents the National Fish of Pakistan (unofficial).

Current problems in Himachal Pradesh

In Himachal Pradesh, golden mahseer is depleting at a fast rate from the state even though it was categorised as an endangered species by the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources(NBFGR)as early as in 1992.

The factors leading to this situation are mainly: 1. Distortion of rivers due to the construction of river valley projects, 2. Multipurpose dams, 3. Shrinking habitat, 4. Poaching, and 5. Exploitation.


  1. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2008). TorSpecies of in FishBase. April 2008 version.
  2. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2008). NeolissochilusSpecies of in FishBase. April 2008 version.
  3. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2008). NaziritorSpecies of in FishBase. April 2008 version.
  4. ^ a b Sen TK, Jayaram KC, 1982. The Mahseer Fish of India – a Review. Rec. Zoological Survey of India. Misc. Publ. Occasional Paper 39, 38p.
  5. ^ Menon AGK, 1992. Taxonomy of mahseer fishes of the genus Tor Gray with description of a new species from the Deccan. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 89 (2):210–228
  6. ^ Roberts TR (1999). in the Nam Theun watershed, Mekong Basin of Laos, with description of a new species"Tor"Fishes of the cyprinid genus (PDF). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 47 (1): 225–236. 
  7. ^ Jha, B.R. & Rayamajhi, A. (2010). "Tor putitora".  
  8. ^ Ogale, S.N. 2002 Mahseer breeding and conservation and possibilities of commercial culture. The Indian experience. In T. Petr and D.B. Swar (eds.) Cold Water Fisheries in the Trans-Himalayan Countries. FAO Fish. Tech. Pap. 431.
  9. ^ Mohindra, V., Khare, Praveen., Lal, K. K., Punia, P., Singh, R. K., Barman, A. S., and Lakra, W. S. (2007). "Molecular discrimination of five Mahseer species from Indian peninsula using RAPD analysis". Acta Zoologica Sinica 53 (4): 725–732. 
  10. ^ Cordington, K. De. B. 1939. Notes on Indian Mahseer. Journal of Bombay Natural History Society. 46: 336–334
  11. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2013). "Tor putitora in FishBase. March 2013 version.
  12. ^ Yule, Henry, Sir. Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. New ed. edited by William Crooke, B.A. London: J. Murray, 1903.
  13. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). TorSpecies of in FishBase. November 2012 version.
  14. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). NeolissochilusSpecies of in FishBase. November 2012 version.
  15. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). NaziritorSpecies of in FishBase. November 2012 version.
  16. ^ William Hough (1845). A brief history of the Bhopal principality in Central India. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press. pp. 1–4.  
  17. ^ Saad Bin Jung, Subhan and I: My Adventures with the Angling Legend of India. Roli Books, New Delhi 2012

Other sources

  • Nautiyal, Prakash, ed. 1994. Mahseer: The Game Fish. Natural History, Status and Conservation Practices in India and Nepal. Rachna.
  • Silas, E. G., Gopalakrishnan, A., John, L., and Shaji, C. P.. 2005. Genetic identity of Tor malabaricus (Jerdon) (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) as revealed by RAPD markers. Indian journal of fish. 52(2): 125–140.
  • Rainboth, W. J. 1985. Neolissochilus, a new group of South Asia Cyprinid fishes. Beaufortia. 35(3): 25–35.
  • Mirza, M. R., and Javed, M. N. 1985. A note on Mahseer of Pakistan with the description of Naziritor, a new subgenus (Pisces: Cyprinidae). Pakistan Journal of Zoology. 17: 225–227.
  • Arunkumar; & Ch. Basudha. 2003. Tor barakae, a new species of mahseer fish (Cyprinidae: Cyprininae) from Manipur, India. Aquacult. 4(2): 271–276.
  • Ambak,M.A., Ashraf,A.H. and Budin,S. 2007. Conservation of the Malaysian Mahseer in Nenggiri Basin through Community Action. In: Mahseer, The Biology, Culture and Conservation. Malaysian Fisheries Society Occasional Publication No.14, Kuala Lumpur 2007:217–228
  • National Agricultural Technology Project, 2004. Germplasm inventory, evaluation and gene banking of freshwater fishes. World Bank funded Project MM, No: 27/28/98/NATP/MM-III, 18-32p. National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Lucknow India.

External links

  • TorValid species list of genus on FishBase.
  • NeolissochilusValid species list of genus on FishBase.
  • NaziritorValid species list of genus on FishBase.
  • Golden Mahseer
  • Mahseer information
  • Deccan Mahseer
  • Mahseer Research Centre – India
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