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April 21, 2018  |  Login

Wild Yak
Bos mutus

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What Are They Like?

Wild yaks are the largest of the bovids, which is a family of cloven-hoofed mammals. They can measure up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) tall at the shoulder and 10.6 feet (3.25 meters) in length. Yaks can weigh between 672-1808 pounds (305-820 kilograms.)  Wild yaks have a blackish brown hide, large black upward curving horns, and long hair fully covering the body. Both wild and domesticated yaks have large lungs, a high red blood cell count, and a high concentration of hemoglobin. These factors allow them to live and thrive in higher elevations, and they can live up to 25 years old in the wild.

Where Do They Live?

The wild yak, native to China and India, can be found throughout the Tibetan Plateau (including Gansu, Sichuan, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Qinghai) in China, Ladak in Northern India, and Schaller and Liu in Nepal. However, it is now regionally extinct in Bhutan and Nepal. Wild yak habitats include the alpine tundra, grasslands, and cold desert regions. Their mountainous range occurs from 4,000-6,100 meters (13,123-20,013 feet), and can reach temperatures of -40° Celsius with hail and snow. The wild yak also moves seasonally into the valleys in the winter where the temperature is warmer.

Did You Know?
Wild yaks are known to have randomly attacked and killed their domestic counterparts for unknown reasons.

How Are Babies Made?

Wild yaks reproduce annually beginning in September, with births in June. The gestation period is approximately nine months and results in one offspring. Typically, male and female yaks are in separate herds, but come together during breeding season to reproduce. Once the calf is born, the female cares for her young with the male yak returning to the herd. A calf reaches maturity after six to eight years.

What Do They Eat?

Wild yaks are herbivores and feed mostly on grasses, lichens, and sedges. They are grazers, meaning they prefer low-lying plants and shrubs for food. Their main predators are the Tibetan wolf and humans. Wild yaks also eat snow and ice as a source of water.

Did You Know?
During winter, the wild yak can survive in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit).

What Do They Do?

Wild Yaks are a gregarious species, usually travelling in groups of greater than 100 individuals. However, groups of 10—20 individuals are also common. There are no set members of a herd; males and females can drop out during breeding season and join another herd once the season is over. The herds spend most of their time during the day travelling to new grazing lands depending on the season.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the wild yak in a “Red List” of species in global endangerment as “vulnerable.” Their wild population, 10,000 to 15,000 remain, is declining slowly and major threats include habitat loss (more then 50% over the last 100 years) due to pastoralists, poaching (especially for meat), interbreeding with domestic livestock and diseases transmitted from domestic livestock.

What's Being Done?

Wild yaks are on CITES’ Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species and on the U.S. Federal List as endangered. They are also fully protected by the central government as a Class 1 animal in China since 1962. Within China, wild yaks exist in a number of large nature reserves, including the Arjin Shan, Chang Tang, Kekexili, Sanjiangyuan, and Yanchiwan Nature Reserves, although none of these reserves provide complete protection from habitat loss or occasional poaching. In India, the species receives total protection under The Wildlife (Protection) Act.


Wild Yak Part 1

Wild Yak Part 2

Wild Yaks Fighting

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