What I've Learned from (and about) Yaks 104

Here is what I know about yaks, but I’m no expert.

Yaks have an impressive presence.  They have large humps, swooping horns, and long fiber.  

They originated in Tibet.

tibetan with yak.png

The Tibetan people relied on them heavily for everyday life (and some still do).  Every part of the yak was utilized. They milked them and made cheese and yogurt with the milk.  They combed out their fiber to spin into yarn. The hides were used. Even the manure was collected and dried to use as fuel.  They ate the yak meat. Tibetans rode yaks and used them as pack animals.

A relatively small number of yaks were imported to America.  Those yaks are the foundation of what the American yaks are descended from.

Yaks are very hardy animals.  They can withstand deep freezes, mountains of snow, driving rain, and whipping winds.  Heat and humidity are not good for them.


Their hides are very thick.  Just try giving them a shot. You have to really push hard!

Yaks grunt.

It is mesmerizing to watch them run through a pasture.  Their tails come up and their tongues come out. Their wool flows out in the wind.  

They are very curious animals.  Many of them are friendly. Each of them has their own personality. Some love treats. Others love to have their ears scratched.


Yaks are easy on the land.  They weigh less than the typical cattle so they mar up the earth less.  They also eat substantially less.

Imperial yaks are all black.  The sun may tint their wool a reddish hue.  The black ones with white markings are Imperial trims.  Natives are black with a grey or brown nose. Native trims have white markings with the grey nose.  Yaks with piebald markings of black and white are royals. The rarest of all are the golden yaks.

Imperial Yak

Imperial Yak

Royal Yak

Royal Yak

Yak meat is similar in taste to beef.  It is leaner and juicier. There is no marbling as the fat is formed on the outer layer of the meat. It is high in protein and low in saturated fat.  It is also very low in cholesterol. Just don’t overcook it!

The American yak farmers I know raise yaks for a variety of reasons.  Some just really enjoy the animals. Others aim to produce meat animals.  Still others breed to sell the offspring. Of course there are those who utilize the wool.  Many do it for all of these reasons like we do. I highly recommend yaks.




My husband and I have raised our family of 6 children in our favorite place on earth, Tully, NY.  Sixteen years ago we built our home and decided we wanted to raise livestock. He was raised on a dairy farm and my father was a veterinarian, so animals were a part of who we were and we wanted our kids to know the value of a hard days’ work.  Our first venture was with alpacas. We did it all: breeding, vet bills, shows, seminars, trips, visits, and a lot of buying and selling. Of course there were ups and downs with mistakes and successes along the way.

Being on the iyak board is an honor and I promise to do my best.  I am still learning as I go and am awed by the knowledge and dedication of the board members.  As I become more comfortable with my role, I hope to be able to contribute more.