Wild Yak: Profile and Information

Wild Yak

The wild yak is a big cattle that is endemic to the Himalayas and is scientifically known as Bos mutus. It is the progenitor of the domestic Yak (Bos Grunniens).

The yak is facing threats from several origins, of which commercial poaching is most prominent. It mostly affects male yaks because they are more solitary.

Another threat facing this species is breeding with other livestock herds.

This doesn’t exclude the contacting of cattle-borne illnesses, although there is no direct proof to corroborate this. A lot of Yaks can be seen in game reserves, especially in China.

Yaks can be found in Northern Tibet and the western region of Qinghai. Some of their populations spread to the extreme southern regions of Xinjiang and Ladakh in India.

This animal is prominent in Nepal, and it is even printed on the nation’s currency.

Scientific Classification

SpeciesB. mutus
Scientific nameBos mutus

Size and Description

Yaks are one of the biggest but extant bovid species, and they also happen to be the biggest animal in their territory. Fully grown wild yaks have a height range of 5 to 7 feet tall. Their weight ranges from 305 – 1200 kilograms.

The length of their body and head is between 2.5 to 3.4 metres. Their tails are quite long, and they are within the range of 24 to 39 inches.

Female yaks are less sizeable than their male counterparts. They are lighter and smaller than the bulls. The domestic yaks are slightly smaller than their wild counterparts as well.

Yaks are powerfully built beasts with a massive frame, solid legs and rounded hooves. Their udder and scrotum are covered in hair to protect against cold weather.

The female yaks have four teats while both genders have a lengthy, rough-looking hair. Their body is insulated against cold weather thanks to the thick woollen undercoat. This undercoat covers the chest, flanks and thigh areas.

This undercoat is so long that it can form a skirt around the yaks’ body and even touch the ground. Yaks have a long tail that is lengthy and horse-like instead of having tufts like a bison.

Their extensive coat is usually dark brown or black.


Yaks move in herds, and a single herd can contain several hundred yaks although some herds are not that large.

The herd is mostly made up of female yaks, the offsprings and a small number of the males (bulls). The female yaks graze on surfaces that are much higher than where the males graze.

Male yaks are either on their own or found in smaller groups having about six bulls. Yaks dread contact with humans and might run away when approached. They can also become vicious during the rut or while protecting their offsprings.


The wild yaks primarily feed on grasses and sedges such as Stipa, Carex and Kobresia. They also feed on herbs, winter fat shrubs, mosses and in some cases, lichen. They are mainly preyed on by the Himalayan wolf, snow leopards and brown bears.


Yaks prefer treeless highlands ranging between 9,800 – 18,000 feet, that are mountains and plateaus. They are typically found in alpine tundra with a slightly thick carpet of sedges and grasses.


The yaks breed during the summer season and deliver their offsprings during spring. They usually give birth to a single calf, and the female yaks typically give birth once a year.

Relationship with humans

The yak is an organic reservoir for both bacterial and viral, animal-based ailments. This could include ailments like anthrax, botulism, tuberculosis and tetanus which has been severely affecting humans.

Conservation Status

Yaks are regarded as a vulnerable species by the IUCN. Its previous status was endangered, but this was due to population decline years earlier. A more recent population study estimated them at about 10,000 adult yaks.

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