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:
- Hooves that help them navigate the rugged terrain.
- Two layers of fur to provide warmth.
- A lung capacity that is three times larger than a cow. This enables them to breathe in the thin mountain air.
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.