The yak, Bos grunniens or Bos mutus, is a long-haired bovine found throughout the Himalayan region of south  Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and as far north as Mongolia and Russia. In addition to a large domestic population, there is a small, vulnerable wild yak population. In the 1990s, a concerted effort was undertaken to help save the wild yak population.

Wild yaks are among the largest bovids, with males standing about 2 to 2.2 metres (6.6 to 7.2 ft) tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) and having a head and body length of 3 to 3.4 m (9.8 to 11 ft). The females weigh about one third of this and are about 30% smaller in their linear dimensions. Domesticated yaks are much smaller, males weighing 350 to 580 kg (770 to 1,300 lb) and females 225 to 255 kg (500 to 560 lb).

Yaks are heavily built animals with a sturdy frame, short legs, and rounded hooves. They have small ears and a wide forehead, with smooth hollow horns that are generally dark in colour. In males, the horns sweep out from the sides of the head, and then curve forward; they typically range from 48 to 99 centimetres (19 to 39 in) in length. The horns of females are smaller, only 27 to 64 centimetres (11 to 25 in) in length, and have a more upright shape. Both sexes have a short neck with a pronounced hump over the shoulders, although this larger and more visible in males.

Both sexes have long shaggy hair with a dense woolly undercoat over the chest, flanks, and thighs to insulate them from the cold. Especially in males, this may form a long “skirt” that almost reaches the ground. The tail is long, with a large plume of hair over much of its length. Wild yaks typically have black or dark brown hair over most of the body, with a greyish muzzle, although some wild golden-brown individuals have been reported. Domesticated yaks have a wider range of coat colours, with some individuals being white or piebald.

The following information was provided by Bijou Basin Ranch who graciously let me use their very informative website.

Present day domestic yak are part of the bovine family, which also contains everyday domestic cattle, and are called Bos Grunniens. They are descended from wild yak caught that were crossbred with domestic cattle and tamed by ancient people of the Himalaya Mountains of Asia. The history of Asia’s yak industry is at least 5000 years old. Because of the yaks value as a beast of burden and its products of extremely rich milk, valuable wool and hair, hides, horns, and incomparable quality of meat, the taming of yak led to progress, prosperity and economic development.

The people of Tibet, as well as in other areas of Asia, are virtually totally dependent on their yak herds. And like the native Americans and the bison, these indigenous peoples utilize the animal to its fullest. The hair is used for spinning, weaving and felting as well as to produce ropes and rugs. The milk is fully utilized for its dairy potential used as milk, yogurt, and butter and yak meat is a main staple of their diet. The horns, hides, and bones are also utilized, in fact, even the yak dung is used as it is burned for fuel.

I love the color of this yak.

Yak were first imported to North America in the late 1920’s, however, close to 100 years later, there are still only a few thousand animals in America today. To the people that raise them, yaks offer not only economic opportunity, but a source of pleasure and enjoyment.

Considered to be easy keepers yak require no special fencing or feed. A yak only eats about one-third 1/3 the amount of hay or grass that a commercial cow eats, allowing three yaks to graze on the same pasture as a single beef cow. Additionally, yaks do not need a finishing ration, which then eliminates, hormones and steroids, however a good mineral block is considered mandatory.

Due to the fact that yak calves, born after a 8 1/2 month gestation period, are somewhat small, 20 – 25 pounds at birth, calving is easy with problem births being very rare. Disease resistant and cold hardy yaks are are perfect for cattlemen, small acreage owners, or exotic breeders providing a source of breeding stock, crossbreeding stock, meat, fiber, milk and dairy products, hides, horns, and make excellent pack or show animals.

Here is my yak fiber.

   The fiber is amazingly soft I can’t wait to see how it dyes and spins. You can check out Bijou Basin Ranch’s lovely fibers and yarns here.


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