What's a Yak?
Yaks are bovine animals that are often compared to both cows and bison but are a distinct animal species.
Yaks are native to the mountains and plateaus of South Asia with the majority of the population located in Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia. Yaks were domesticated by the nomadic Tibetan people who have depended on their versatility and hardiness for thousands of years. They arrived to North America via imports to Canada.
For the nomads of Asia, yak dairy and meat are vital sources of protein and fat. Yaks' wool down fiber is fashioned into warm textiles while the coarser guard hair is made into rope, tents, and other products. Yaks are also used to transport people and supplies through the inhospitable Himalayan Mountains. Even yak dung is important. In the highly elevated, treeless regions, it is used to fuel fires.
Yaks' defining physical characteristics include: long hair, cloven hooves, a shoulder hump, and horns on both males and females that turn slightly backward as they mature. Their coat coloring is classified into the following categories:
Considerable amounts of light coloring; often with a pink/tan nose.
Most common coloring
All dark including a black nose.
Animals with a light colored noses
are considered "native".
Mostly dark with minimal white markings. Very common coloring.
Reddish hue, often with gray and white markings.
Very rare recessive coloring.
This is our most asked question and one that we love to answer!
Yaks are an incredibly versatile animal, making them a fantastic option for a variety of approaches to agriculture.
Below are just a few reasons why yaks are quickly growing in popularity:
Yaks produce an insulative undercoat of desirable wool fiber that is:
Grown during the winter months and harvested with combs, not shears.
Warmer than cashmere, merino, alpaca, or angora
Naturally hypoallergenic: It is lanolin-free and can be worn by those with wool allergies
Naturally antibacterial: It does not retain body odors and requires minimal laundering
Soft, breathable, and beautiful: It is one of the finest animal fibers at 16-20 microns in size
Yak is the healthiest red meat* out there, it’s delicious, and it’s in demand.
Beef flavor with no gamey taste. A high moisture content keeps this lean meat juicy
Lower in fat than beef, bison or chicken breast
Lower in cholesterol than choice beef, bison, chicken breast, tuna, or salmon
Better source of Omega 6 and 3 than beef and tuna
The demand for yak meat in the US is greater than the supply
*nutritional information taken from 2011 IYAK study
Yaks need less space and feed than cattle, ideal for the
micro-farmer and the environmentally-conscious.
Yaks can subsist on as little as an acre per animal
They do not need grain
They eat approximately a third of what a cow does to gain a pound
Yaks are built to survive a harsh natural habitat, making them hardy livestock
They rarely need assistance with calving
Require minimal shelter
Thrive in extreme cold