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The Amazing Himalayan Yak

The humble yak- such an underrated animal and yet so hard-working and long-suffering!

Some of the world’s yak population can be found in the alpine meadows and central Asia’s steppes however, the majority of them live in the Himalayas in the Tibetan Plateau.

As a very close relative of the bison and buffalo, the yak can be either wild or domesticated. These 2 types differ in appearance and size and are highly valued due to their meat, nutritious milk, fur and dung, which can be used as fuel.

It is a sad state of affairs that the number of wild yak is steadily decreasing due to an increase in hunting and loss of habitat. The wild yak has therefore now been listed as a vulnerable species which means that it is almost an endangered species.

Smaller than the wild yak, the male domestic yak can reach 6.5 feet in height while the female domestic yak is around 3 times smaller than this.

Domestic yaks have long, thick wooly coats which can be black, white or brown in color. In addition, they have long, bushy tails. Their thick fur helps them to keep warm and to preserve body heat in cold temperatures.

A yak’s hooves are split, enabling it to easily move on icy, rocky and difficult terrain as well as to evade predators.

A wild yak has even longer fur than a domestic yak and can survive much colder temperatures (ie. down to -40 degrees celsius). Wild yaks are also able to swim in almost frozen waters without affecting their core body temperature.

Both domestic and wild yaks are sociable animals and enjoy living together in large herds of between 10 to 100 animals. These are mixed herds consisting of both males and females.

In terms of diet, the yak is a herbivore and will eat moss, herbs, grass and tubers. Similar to its cattle counterparts, the yak will “chew the cud” and chew its food many times before swallowing it.

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