Yaks live in cold, mountainous regions in Central Asia. These members of the cattle family are well-suited for surviving in this environment. They have:

Domestic Yaks Are Important to Tibetans

Yaks have been used as domestic animals in Tibet for centuries. Tibetans rely on yaks for:

  • Fuel: Yak manure is burned as fuel.
  • Meat: Their meat is high in protein.
  • Milk: Yak milk contains 7 to 8% fat.
  • Transportation: They can carry heavy loads on steep mountain paths.
  • Wool: Their wool is spun into blankets and ropes. Young yaks have softer wool which is used for clothing.

Wild Yaks and Domestic Yaks Look Different

  • Wild yaks have black or rusty-brown fur. Domestic yaks vary in color, but many have mottled white patches on their sides and back.
  • Wild yaks have bigger horns than domestic yaks.
  • Wild yaks are taller than domestic yaks. Male yaks in the wild stand 2 to 2.2 meters tall at the shoulder. Domesticated males average 1 to 2 meters tall.
  • All yaks have a fringed cape of fur that almost touches the ground. It’s more noticeable in males.

Yaks Are Adaptable, but Numbers Are Declining

  • Yaks are herbivores. They eat grass, herbs, mosses, and lichen.
  • In the winter, yaks will eat snow when thirsty. They use their horns to move snow out of the way so that they can find food.
  • Female yaks usually give birth to a single calf every two years. They can birth more often if they have plenty to eat.
  • The number of wild yaks has been declining due to habitat loss and interference from humans.