Have you ever seen a yak, or do you know what a Yak is? The first Yaks to be seen in Europe were from Bhutan. The Yak is endemic to the Himalayas and some refer to it as the “Camel of the Snow”. The Bhutanese have a story about how the Yak borrowed hair from a buffalo to venture into Tibet to look for salt, and the Yak north and never returned. The folklore says, that is why buffalo are always looking upwards to see if the Yak is returning.
We were fortunate enough (on one leg of our trip) to encounter a small herd migrating up to the higher mountains. Driving along the mountainous roads of Bhutan we reached a point of 3500m and a herd of Yak crossing the road en route to the high ground.
Since yaks cannot survive below 3,500 meters (10,500 feet), they are found at higher altitudes, usually above 4,500 meters (12,500 feet) and sometimes, as high as 6,100 meters (18,300 feet). Unique hemoglobin in the yak’s blood may have assisted the creature in adapting to high altitudes.
Male Yaks are rather large creatures, standing almost two meters tall at the shoulder, with male adults weighing over a ton. Females of the species tend to weigh about a third of that.
An endangered species, yaks are not helped by the fact that they bear only one young after a nine month gestation period, and that baby yaks need a full year to ween before they can survive on their own.
Domesticated in Tibet in the first millennium B.C., yaks are kept in herds by nomadic Bhutanese herdsmen who live in sun with their animals and are considered nomadic.