Domestic Yak: Profile and Information

Domestic Yak

The domestic yak is a domesticated bovine with long hair that is found in Asia. These are animals with a heavy body, strong legs, rounded cloven hooves, and incredibly thick, long hair.

They also possess small ears, a wide forehead, and dark-colored horns. The males’ horns, generally referred to as bulls, extend from the corner of their heads and then arc forward.

Domestic yaks come in different color variations, which often include patches of cream and rusty brown. Some yaks can be grey, brown, black, white, piebald, or roan.

Both the male and the female yak have long shaggy fur with a dense woolly undercoat over the thighs, chest, and flanks.

This helps the animal to stay insulated during the cold. The tail is typically long and horselike, unlike the tail of bison and cattle that is tufted.

Scientific classification

SpeciesBos grunniens
Scientific nameBos grunniens


Domestic yaks dominate parts of the Himalayan region of the Indian region, Northern Myanmar, the Tibetan Plateau, Yunnan, Siberia, and the north of Mongolia.

They occupy the alpine steppe, alpine meadows, and desert steppe. This animal requires a vast range of grassland with evenly distributed vegetation and small shrubs.

Habits and Lifestyle

They are social animals that can be found in a group of 10 to 20. They are active in the day, and the herds typically consist of female yaks and their young ones. Males can live in solitude or form small herds of bachelors.

Yaks gather together during cold nights and snowstorms, putting the calves in the middle. Yaks are well suited to high altitude living; they have larger hearts and lungs than cattle located at lower altitudes.

By grunting, domestic yaks communicate with one another. They do not make the characteristic low bovine sound (mooing) that influenced their scientific name variant, Bos grunniens, unlike cattle (grunting bull).

Diet and Nutrition

Domestic yaks are herbivores that feed on herbs and grasses. They also eat mosses, tubers, flowers, and sometimes, lichens.

Mating Habits

Domestic Yak

They are polygynous animals, meaning one male can mate with more than one female during the breeding season. Yaks mate in the summer, depending on the local climate, usually between July and September.

Numerous bulls venture away from large herds in small bachelor gatherings for the rest of the year, but when they get bored, they become aggressive and fight each other regularly to initiate dominance.

Bulls often fight more explicitly, frequently charging at each other with heads lowered or sparring with their horns, in addition to bellowing, non-violent threat displays and scratching the ground with their horns.

During the rut, bulls often wallow in dry dirt, often when scent-marking their territories with urine or feces. Between May and June, females give birth to a single calf, and the gestation period lasts about 257 to 270 days.

Within about ten to fifteen minutes of birth, the newly born calf may begin to walk. Females usually give birth only once every other year, but more frequent births are likely if the food supply is strong.  Calves get weaned and are left to roam on their own shortly after.

At one year of age, calves are typically weaned and become independent shortly after that. In general, females give birth when they are 3 to 4 years of age and hit their peak reproductive activity at six years old.

Relationship with humans

Yaks include animals that are mostly domesticated in central Asia. Also, it’s been assumed that yaks may have been domesticated in Tibet during the first millennium B.C.

Their admirable ability to thrive at high altitudes complimented the social development of the Tibetan Plateau. Domesticated yaks have provided fiber, milk, and meat for thousands of years.

They’ve also been used as beasts of burden as they carry goods across difficult terrains for locals and tourists. Farmers use domesticated yaks to draw plows. There are presently well over 14 million domestic yaks in Central Asia.

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