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Wild Yak
Wild Yak

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Wild Yak

Scientific Name:
Bos grunniens

Other Names and/or Listed subspecies:
Bos mutus

Group: Mammals

Status/Date Listed as Endangered:
EN-US FWS: June 2, 1970

VU-IUCN: 2008

Area(s) Where Listed As Endangered:
China (Tibet), India

The yak is an ox species found in Central Asia. A very large percentage of the yak population is domesticated, but one vulnerable wild yak population still exists in the Tibetan plateau. Adults stand about 6.5 feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh over 1800 lb, and they can grow over 11 feet long in head and body length. Females are smaller than males. Their coats are extremely shaggy, dense, and wooly and dark brown to black in color with white patches. Some golden wild yaks have been observed, but they are very rare. The shoulders are high and humped, and the head is very large. Yaks also possess horns on their heads that curve upward, and they can grow over a foot long in females and 3.4 feet long in males. The horns are used for digging under the snow for food.

Wild yaks prefer grasslands for their habitat and they are usually found in areas where there are lots of lichens, grasses, and tubers. When food becomes scarce, some herds migrate long distances to find these plants. They seem to enjoy colder temperatures and do not favor warm weather. Much of the time is spent grazing on grass-like plants and shrubs, forbs, and cushion plants. Herds as large as 200 females and their young have been observed. Males prefer to be along or will band together in small solitary groups of two to five. When they are ready to mate, they separate to join female herds. They may even compete violently with other males to gain dominance over a herd. Females give birth to one calf in June after a gestation period of nine months.

The latest population estimate for this creature if 15,000. The main cause of decline is hunting by humans. Also, habitat disturbance, hybridization, and competition with domestic yaks pose a threat to the species. The remaining wild yak population is legally protected, but according to the Tibet Forest Bureau, this is difficult to enforce in some mountainous regions. Some wild yaks are protected in the Chang Tang Reserve in China.

Wild Yak Facts Last Updated: October 15, 2007

To Cite This Page:
Glenn, C. R. 2006. "Earth's Endangered Creatures - Wild Yak Facts" (Online).
Accessed 3/23/2017 at


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