Wild Yak

Wild Yak

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Subfamily
Genus
Bos
SPECIES
Bos mutus
Population size
10,000
Life Span
25 yrs
TOP SPEED
40 km/h
WEIGHT
305-1,000 kg
HEIGHT
1.6-2 m
LENGTH
2.5-3 m

The Wild yak is a large wild bovid native to the Himalayas. They are among the largest bovids and are second only to the gaur in shoulder height. They are also the largest native animal in their range. Wild yaks are heavily built animals with a bulky frame, sturdy legs, and rounded cloven hooves. Both sexes have long shaggy hair with a dense woolly undercoat over the chest, flanks, and thighs for insulation against the cold. In males especially, this undercoat may form a long "skirt" that can reach the ground. The tail is long and horse-like. The coat is typically black or dark brown covering most of the body, with a grey muzzle, although some wild golden-brown individuals have been reported. Wild yaks with gold-colored hair are known as the Wild Golden yak.

Distribution

Wild yaks are found primarily in northern Tibet and western Qinghai (Northwestern China), with some populations extending into the southernmost parts of Xinjiang, and into Ladakh in India. Small, isolated populations are also found farther afield, primarily in western Tibet and eastern Qinghai. The primary habitat of Wild yaks consists of treeless uplands, dominated by mountains and plateaus. They are most commonly found in alpine tundra with a relatively thick carpet of grasses and sedges rather than the more barren steppe country.

Wild Yak habitat map

Geography

Continents
Subcontinents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Wild yaks are social animals that live in herds. Their herds can contain several hundred individuals, although many are much smaller. Herds consist primarily of females and their young, with a smaller number of adult males. Wild yaks are active during the day. On average females graze 100 m higher than males. Females with young tend to choose grazing ground on high, steep slopes. The remaining males are either solitary or gather in smaller groups, averaging around six individuals. Groups move into lower altitude ranges during the winter. Although wild yaks can become aggressive when defending young, or during the rut, they generally avoid humans and may flee for great distances if approached.

Group name

Diet and Nutrition

Wild yaks are herbivores (graminivores). Their diet consists mainly of grasses and sedges. They also eat herbs, winterfat shrubs, and mosses, and occasionally lichen.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
July-September
PREGNANCY DURATION
257-270 days
BABY CARRYING
1 calf
INDEPENDENT AGE
1 year
FEMALE NAME
cow
MALE NAME
bull
BABY NAME
calf

Wild yaks are polygynous; this means that males mate with more than one female in a single breeding season. They breed from July to September. Prior to mating, there is a period called "rut". During this time solitary males return to the herd and become highly competitive with each other. If several males return at the same time, fighting may occur, competing to be the dominant animal in the herd. Frightened or defeated males don't give up the competition, but leave for 2-3 days grazing and then return to fight again. Females typically give birth once every other year to only one calf. The gestation period is between 257 to 270 days. Calves are born fully developed and are able to walk about ten minutes after being born. Weaning takes place at one year of age and calves become independent soon after. Young Wild yaks become reproductively mature between 4 to 6 years of age.

Population

Population threats

Uncontrolled hunting is a major threat to Wild yaks; males are particularly impacted because of their more solitary habits. Disturbance by and interbreeding with livestock herds are also common. Further threats are loss of habitat and diseases from domestic yaks and livestock. The main natural predator was the Tibetan wolf, but snow leopards and brown bears are also predators in some areas.

Population number

According to IUCN, as of 2008, the wild yak population is estimated to be at no more than 10,000 mature individuals. The majority of the population is concentrated in Chang Tang Reserve in Tibet. The population in India is a maximum of around 110 individuals in the Ladakh region. Currently, wild yaks are classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The ancestor of the wild and domestic yak is thought to have diverged from Aurochs, also known as Urus or Ureat a point between one and five million years ago. The wild yak is now treated as a separate species from the domestic yak.
  • Yaks live very high up and can survive at an elevation of 20,000 feet in the Himalayas, the habitat of the highest elevation of any other mammal.
  • The yak's digestive system digests food at 104 degrees F (40 C), which keeps it warm despite very cold conditions.
  • Yaks are well adapted to the cold and begin to suffer from heat when it is above about 60° F (15° C).

References

1. Wild Yak Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_yak
2. Wild Yak on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/2892/101293528

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