Feral Yak | Online Record Book Preview
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Feral Yak - Species Detail
Yak (Sp), Wildyak (G), Yak Sauvage (F).
DESCRIPTION In wild yak males, head and body length up to 10-1/2 feet (3.2 m), shoulder height up to six feet (1.8 m), and weight up to 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg). Females weigh only one-third as much as males.
The wild yak is a huge bovine with a massive build. The shoulders form a hump, behind which the back is nearly straight. Legs are short and stout, ending in large, broad hoofs. Muzzle and ears are relatively small. There is no dewlap. The hair of the head and upper body is comparatively short and smooth, but on the lower flanks it forms a long fringe that extends from chin and throat along the belly and around the shoulders to the hindquarters, reaching almost to the ground. The tail has a mass of long hairs on its lower half that reaches below the hocks. Color is a uniform blackish-brown, except for some white on the muzzle and a sprinkling of gray on the head and face of older animals. The horns (both sexes) are widely separated, nearly circular in section, and smooth. They curve out and up at first, then inward and forward with the tips often inclining backward. Horn lengths from 29-1/4 to 40 inches (74.3 to 101.6 cm) and basal circumferences from 12 to 18-1/2 inches (30.5 to 47.0 cm) have been recorded by Rowland Ward, mainly from animals taken prior to 1914. Horns of females are much slimmer than those of males.
The domestic yak is much smaller than the wild yak, with weaker horns and varied coloration-red, brown, black, or mottled.
BEHAVIOR Females and young live in large herds, which sometimes numbered in the thousands in past years. Adult males are solitary or in small bachelor groups. During the mating season in September, the bulls join the herds and fight for possession of females. After a 9-month gestation period, a single calf is born in June. Females give birth every other year. The calf leaves the mother when one year old, reaches full size at 6-8 years, and may live for 25 years.
Found in steppe and mountain areas at elevations up to 20,000 feet (6,100 m). Spends the warm months of August-September in high areas with permanent snow, descending to lower elevations the rest of the year. Diet includes grasses, herbs and lichens. A sure-footed and strong climber.
DISTRIBUTION According to Brandt, wild yaks still exist in remote areas of Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, Ladakh, Nepal and Sikkim, and probably number in the thousands rather than the few hundred that have been estimated by others.
Domestic and feral yaks are abundant throughout the higher regions of central Asia, from Afghanistan eastward to Bhutan and northward to Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang and Mongolia.
TAXONOMIC NOTES Some authorities use the name Bos mutus for the wild yak and B. grunniens for the domestic form, but we do not differentiate.
STATUS The wild yak is listed as endangered by the USF&WS (1970) and IUCN and is on Appendix I of CITES (1975). It is officially protected by the Chinese government.
REMARKS The yak has been domesticated for 3,000 years, and now occurs in association with people throughout the highlands of central Asia. Strong but docile, it is the most useful domestic animal at higher elevations. It is used as a riding and pack animal, for milk and meat production, and for its wool. Many domestic yaks have wandered off and live freely in the wild as feral animals. It is estimated there are as many as 12 million domestic and feral yaks in the uplands of Asia.
Because of their endangered status, we do not accept wild yaks for the Record Book, but we do accept entries for the plentiful and unendangered feral yak.
The Feral Yak currently has 42 Entries listed in the SCI Record Book!
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