Yaks are divided into two species: domestic and wild. Domestic yak are smaller, have a less shaggy coat, and probably originated from wild Tibetan yak.
Domestic yak are used for travel and as draft animals. They are also valued for their milk, meat, wool, and dung. Domestic yak are more varied in colors than wild yak.
The wild yak is threatened by loss of habitat and over hunting. Their status is “vulnerable.”
The wild yak has a dense undercoat covered by generally dark brown to black outer hair, which almost reaches to the ground. The male wild yak can weigh up to 2200 pounds and is 6.5 feet high at the shoulder. Females weigh about a third of that. Their horns can be 20 (females) to 40 (males) inches long and grow out from the sides of the head and curve upward. Their tails are bushy.
Wild yak live in alpine meadows and on the steppes in Asia. They live at the highest altitude of any mammal. They graze on grasses, herbs, moss, lichens, and tubers. In the winter wild yak can crunch ice or snow for water.
Female yak and young congregate in large herds, while the males are more solitary or form much smaller groups. Yaks have a cleft or split hoof, which makes them agile over rocky or icy ground.
Yaks possess great lung capacity so they can absorb more oxygen. Their digestive system is also designed to keep them warm.
Fun Yak Facts
- In winter a wild yak can survive temperatures as low as - 40 degrees (F).
- A wild yak doesn’t reach full size until 6 to 8 years of age.
- In wild yaks, births usually occur in June and a single calf is born every other year.
- Dried yak dung is used as fuel in the treeless Tibetan plateaus.
- The Sherpas of Nepal call the males of the species “Yak” and the females “Nak,” or “Dri.”
Blue Planet Biomes