The yak was originally domesticated in Tibet thousands of years ago and has supplied the indigenous people of these mountainous regions with most of their daily needs including meat, milk, butter, cheese, wool, fibre, leather, fuel, and packing/trekking/travel requirements. The versatile animal is an integral part of the lives of the Tibetan natives and substantially adds to the renowned health and longevity of these people.
The wild yak (bos mutus) is found at elevations of 14,000 ft. In fact the wild yak can't actually live below 12,000 ft for any length of time. But during these occasions, wild yak males interbred with various cattle breeds surrounding their native Himalayan Mountain terrain. The cross calf females crossed back several times to the wild yak. These multigenerational crosses became the domesticated yak (bos grunniens).
Adult yak females range in weight from 600 to 700 pounds and stand 4.5 ft at the shoulders, whilst yak males range from 1200 to 1400 pounds and stand 5.5 ft at the shoulders. Full size is achieved in six to eight years. Yaks do not bellow, bawl, or moo. Instead they communicate in quiet grunts, snorts and head shakes.
Similar to bison and other heritage breed animals that are gaining popularity among health-conscious carnivores, yak's meat is lean (95% fat free) and protein-packed, low in cholesterol and revered for its sweet, delicate, beef-like flavour.
So why am I telling you all this?
As many of you who read my blog are aware, despite my primarily vegetarian/vegan based diet back home, I like to embrace culture when I travel. This, within reason, will include sampling some of the local cuisine. I have now added yak meat to the list that includes cuy, camel, scorpion and water buffalo.
And it was absolutely delicious! Mixed with herbs, celery and onions, it was juicy & tender.
And get this... They're great for the environment. Because they evolved in the mountains, they're really efficient! They actually consume less grass per acre per animal than a cow, and get the same amount of nutritional energy. So say you have take a single acre of pasture, you can have one or two cows that are larger in size. But on that same acre, you can have three or four yaks. Even though the yak is smaller in stature, because they consume less grass per yak, you can pack more yaks on that acre and maximize your meat production on a per acre basis.
I have to admit for this entire post I've had Yakety Yak (Don't Talk Back) playing in my head.....