Wild Yak

Bos mutus

Click to view a larger image. Click to view a larger image. mammal mammal

Museum specimen featured in the Wild exhibition
Source: Museum Victoria

Wild Yak
Image: David Samuel Robbins
Source: Corbis

Type: mammal

Wild Yak Wild Yak
Image: David Samuel Robbins
Source: Corbis

Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

The major threat to Wild Yaks is crossbreeding with domesticated yaks and other types of cattle as pastoralists move their herds into nature reserves. There are very few Wild Yaks remaining and their distribution is very small. They are also vulnerable to domestic cattle diseases and poaching for meat, despite being protected.



Wild Yaks are herbivores.

They browse on grass, lichens and other plants.


Wild Yak relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a woman and an African Elephant.

1200 kg
3–3.4 m
2–2.2 m at shoulder

Amazing Wild Yaks

Domesticated thousands of years ago, yaks are common and important animals to the people of the Himalayan countries. They are a vital source of milk, meat, skin and fur, and are useful beasts of burden. However, the wild stock from which these animals were bred are quite different beasts. Both types look like large, shaggy, horned cattle, but Wild Yaks are much larger. There are millions of domestic yaks but perhaps only 10 000 Wild Yaks in existence.

Wild Yaks live in herds of tens to hundreds of animals, grazing the low, sparse vegetation of their habitat. They are very well adapted to freezing temperatures with their thick fur coats. Their enlarged lungs and heart allow them to breathe the thin air of high altitudes. These adaptations mean Wild Yaks cannot thrive in warmer climates.

The reproductive rate of Wild Yaks is low. Females do not start breeding until they are three or four years old, and bear a calf every two years. At night the herds huddle together for warmth, with the calves protected in the centre of the group. Other than humans, the main predator of this species is the Tibetan Wolf.

Did You Know?

Wild Yaks

  • have been domesticated in the Himalayas
  • have enlarged lungs and heart to survive at high altitude
  • secrete a substance that keeps their coat matted


Wild Yak distribution map

Wild Yaks are found in China, India and Mongolia and are extinct in Bhutan and Nepal. They inhabit alpine tundra, grasslands and cold desert regions.


Other animals from the Palaearctic

Common EiderLady Amherst's PheasantSnow LeopardGiant Panda