"YAK" is a very recognizable word. It immediately brings to mind a strong energetic bison-like animal found in the Himalayan region.
In Tibetan (g.yag or gyag) refers to the male animal. "Dri" or "dee" refers only the female. Depending on what the needs are,
yaks and dris are sometimes bred with oxen and domestic cattle to obtain richer milk, higher quality wool, expertise in load transport and
personalities amenable to plowing. It's very complicated.
English speakers now use "yak" to refer to both sexes. Even though a yak's underside (and privates) are completely covered with long wool,
our friends with yak herds are puzzled as to why foreigners can't see the difference between the sexes.
We named our film company YAK YAK MEDIA to honor the help that yaks and our yak herder friends have given us in making our films.
We enjoy the cheerful company of these yak wranglers on those cold nights at the roof of the world.
Yak Yak Facts you should know:
Yak/dee mating begins in September and lasts for about 20 days as the males chase the
dris around the high valleys.
Males fight each other for the family making potential of the females.
The young yaks are born in June when there is plenty of grass in the high valleys.
Gestation period is 258 days (8 ½ months)– with one birth per year.
Weaning from the mother takes about a year.
Yaks reach their sexual maturity by 6-8 years.
Yaks are found everywhere along the Himalayas from Ladakh in India, into Tibet, Mongolia, and high up in Nepal and Bhutan.
Yaks live about 25 years.
Yaks normally live at an altitude between (almost exactly) 9800 feet to about 18,000 + feet.
Yaks live outdoors most of the year. They can survive several days without eating grass, such as during a heavy snowfall, for instance.
Most yaks can't live or work where the temperature is above 59 F.
Yaks used for hauling heavy loads (up to 150 lbs.) have to be pastured each day. They don't eat grain – which could be carried, but isn't.
A yak's favorite food is salt – for some unknown reason.
Each yak has a unique personality.
Herders call them by name and talk to each one differently.
Yaks tend to live in large groups with a leader called a "Lamba."
Yaks can be used to haul heavy loads up steep mountain passes and along narrow trails that would scare off horses and donkeys.
Yaks are very smart and can easily navigate lost trails during a snowstorm.
Yaks can be used to pull plows in fields.
Currently a large male yaks costs about $3000 USD… a fortune in the Himalayas. This could be more depending on their physical strength,
beauty and potential to lead other yaks as a Lamba.
Having a large smart Lamba yak in your corral is a sign of prosperity. We were told it is similar to parking a new Porsche in your driveway.
In the Tsum Valley of Nepal, yaks are used to scare off "methi" (their valley word for a yeti),
as yetis will not attack if there are yaks around. (It works. We have never been attacked by yetis)
Yak cheese is one of the wonders of the world and should be on everyone's bucket list.
We have enjoyed the 1999 French film (English subtitles) titled "HIMALAYA" by director Eric Valli.
The story revolves around the use of yaks in the very isolated upper Dolpo region of Nepal.
It's a remarkable film. On the DVD there is an excellent "Making of Himalaya" section that should not be missed.
Photo by Dhawa Gyanjen Lama