Originated in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, encompassing the Himalaya region of Southern Central Asia reaching as far north as Russia and Mongolia, the Yak has earned the reputation of “The treasure and boat on Tibetan Plateau”.
The Yak belongs to the genus Bos, Artiodactyla. There are two different categories of Yak: the domestic Yak (Bos Grunniens), and the wild Yak (Bos Mutus).
Yak, a kind of ancient species, is one of the earliest animal that have been domesticated by Tibetan ancestors. It has been revered as an iconic symbol of Tibetan culture for centuries.
The number of Yaks in Tibet is larger than population of Tibetan people. The whole Tibetan population is estimated to be approximately 3 million, while, the number of Yaks in the first producing area (Naqu) has reached more than 3 million and the number of Yaks in the second producing area (Chamdo) is more than 1.2 million. It is estimated there are more than 14 million Yaks on the planet. Most of Yaks grow in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and its surrounding regions which are above 3000 meters high. China is the country which has the largest number of Yaks in the world. The Yaks in China account for about 85% of the world’s total Yak population.
The Yak is capable of living at the highest elevation in the world. It has the ability to endure the cold of -30℃ to -40℃, with a limit of climbing the glacier to 6400 meters. The Yak is skillful at walking on steep and dangerous roads, climbing snow-capped mountains and wading across swamps and rivers. It is also good at recognizing the road. The Yak can carry heavy loads for long distances. It is able to carry goods up to 100-200kg and walk for about 15km a day.
Yaks are robust cattle with a bulky frame, short but thick legs, and rounded cloven hooves that are splayed to help them walk in snow. Their most distinctive feature is an extremely dense, shaggy long coat that, occasionally, hangs down to the ground. Wild yaks are generally dark, blackish to brown in color, whereas domestic yaks are more variable in color, and may have patches of cream and rusty brown. Yaks have relatively small ears, and a broad forehead. Both males and females have horns; in males, the horns sweep out from the sides of the head, and then curve forward, whereas the horns of females are smaller and more upright in shape. The tail is long and similar to a horse’s tail, rather than the tail of cattle or bison, which are tufted. Both sexes have a distinctive hump over their shoulders.
The wide and endless grassland in Tibetan Plateau is scattered with a group of Yaks which are regarded as the “family heirloom” by Tibetan people. Yaks live on natural grasslands and move as season changes. Summer is the golden season for them because the grass is green and lush. They can eat fresh grass as much as they like. Therefore, Yaks are plump and strong in summer. However, when winter comes, the grass will turn yellow and wither. Yaks only have limited food every day. Some strong Yaks may suffer from malnutrition.
Yaks are temperate and obedient. They are never wild and rage to their owners. But, if they meet their enemies, they will fight to death before they surrender. Thanks to their four sturdy limbs and four hard hooves, Yaks are good at carrying heavy things on muddy and stony roads.
Yaks do not only work hard to serve their master in the Plateau day by day, but also play an important role in sport events. Every year, a Yak racing is held allowing Yaks to display their competitive skills.
The Yak is an invaluable resource to the Tibetan people. Their milk and meat are crucial food sources. Their flexible and smooth hair is used to make luxurious, exquisite and warm textiles such as Tibetan wool.
In short, the Yak is definitely the treasure of which make great contribution to Tibetan people and to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.