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Scientific name: Bos grunniens

Other common names: Tibetan Yak

The basics:
The domesticated Yak (Bos grunniens) is a cross between the wild Yak (Bos mutus) and local domestic cattle breeds in nations surrounding the Himalayan Mountains such as Tibet. Yaks were domesticated in Tibet around 3000-2500 B.C.E., and then spread throughout western China to Mongolia. Yaks are an important domestic animal in countries like China, and because of their hardiness, meat and fiber, are also growing in popularity in the West.

According to the International Yak Association (IYAK), "Yaks can fill the market niche of every cattleman, small acreage owner or exotic breeder. They provide a source of breeding stock, crossbreeding stock, meat, fiber, milk and dairy products, hides, horns, and make excellent pack or show animals." "Yak meat has a delicious and delicate beef like flavor. It is very low in fat as the fat layer is put down on the outside of the carcass and is easily trimmed off. It is deep red in color, high in protein, and low in calories, saturated fats, cholesterol and triglycerides.

"Yak fiber is comparable to cashmere or angora. It is the downy undercoat that sheds off during the spring and can be combed out, collected and processed. The courser outer hair or ‘guard hair’ can be used to weave ropes and belts."

Appearance / health:
Yaks are herd animals maturing to more than 10 ft. long and 6 ft. tall. The tail is about 2 ft. in length. The body color is typically brown to black, sometimes whitish with varied markings and patterns among domesticated yaks. The head is broad and drooping; the shoulders are humped. Both sexes are horned, growing from the sides of the head and curving upwards. The horns average 38 inches on the male, and are smaller and shorter on the female. The fur is wooly, shaggy, and thick, with a dense undercoat.

According to the International Yak Association (IYAK), "Yaks, (Bos grunniens), a member of the bovine family, are divided into the following categories: 1. Imperial: black with a black nose. 2. Black: black with a gray nose. 3. Trim: black with white trim usually on the forehead, feet and tip of tail. 4. Royal: black and white (similar to Holstein markings). 5. Golden: dun coloring over black 6. Woolly: longer and thicker hair coat"

Behavior / temperament:
Yaks are extremely tolerant of very low temperatures and can even swim across lakes and rivers that are close to freezing. They are sensitive to warm temperatures and will climb mountains to escape the heat. They look bulky and awkward but they are excellent climbers. They are quick to flee when threatened or startled. They may charge but usually abort and flee before coming face to face with the intruder. Their common vocalization is a grunt (they don’t moo), hence the name “grunniens.”

Housing / diet:
In general Yak utilize their feed much more efficiently than cattle, so 3 to 4 Yak will graze an amount approximately equal to 1 cow. According to the International Yak Association (IYAK), "Yaks are ‘easy keepers’. They require no special fencing needs. Your standard 4-wire barbed wire fence is sufficient. They are cold hardy and disease resistant. Birthing comes easily as the calves are relatively small at around 35 lbs. Although yaks do not do as well in extremely hot and humid climates, they are fine at normal ‘summer’ conditions when shade trees and fresh water are available. The stocking rate of yaks is greater that of commercial cattle. A yak eats about 1/3 the amount of hay that a commercial cow eats. Yaks do not need a finishing ration, thus you can eliminate grain, hormones and steroids. A good mineral block is essential, however, along with free choice freshwater."


fiber animals, small acreage farms, multipurpose animals, Yak products, unique personalities


rut breeding seasons, good fence, extra wormings


low hum, exceptionally keen senses, ongoing pack training

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