March 16, 2012
The first animal that comes up in people’s minds when they hear Tibet is the Yak, the official animal of Tibet. Around 10 million of them roam the Tibetan plateau – that’s about 85% of the total yak world population! They are perfectly adapted to life in the Himalayas: a high amount of red blood cells – about 3 times more than other cattle – lets them live in high altitudes without problems. Their long, thick fur protects them from the harsh temperatures of Tibetan winter.
Yaks are incredibly important in Tibetan life and have been domesticated for the first time over 3000 years ago. Even now, live more or less revolves around those sturdy animals. They are perfect pack animals on the steep and rough mountain terrain. Their dung is used as a sustainable source of fuel for fires, as most of Tibet is a treeless landscape. Their hair is woven into yarn used to make ropes and tents, their hides are used to make boots and boats. Their meat and milk are important staple foods: The meat is eaten dried or raw, their blood is used and milk is made into butter, cheese and yogurt. Yaks are so important to Tibetans that each and every one of them is given a name.
There are less than 1000 wild yaks, called “drong” left in Tibet, most of them in northeast Tibet. The vast majority is domesticated. The animals are thought to be closely related to bison.