The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Armadillo
Story Of The Lynx
Story Of The Elephant
Story Of The Leopard
Story Of The Reindeer
Story Of The Coyote
Story Of The Wild Sheep
Story Of The Mungoose
Story Of The Zebra
Story Of The Yak
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Story Of The Yak
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
On the plateau of Thibet I hunted the long-haired yak some years ago. We reached the most inaccessible region of that wild country, rarely visited by white men, in the spring and spent a, part of the summer there. During that period I frequently followed the yak and shot several large specimens of the animal. Its long hair, the longest on any animal, is its chief distinguishing feature. Some of the bulls weighed 1,500 pounds.
Yak inhabit the plateau of Thibet, probably extending northwards as far as the Kuen-Luen range, while eastwards they range into the Chinese province of Kansu, and westwards enter the eastern portions of Ladak, especially the regions in the neighborhood of the Chang-Chenmo valley and the great Pangkong lake. The greater portion of the country comprised within this extensive area is desolate and dreary in the extreme, but yak confine themselves to the wildest and most inaccessible portions of these regions, and are found only at great elevations, ranging in summer from about fourteen thousand to upwards of twenty thousand feet, and perhaps even more, above the level of the sea. They are at all times extremely impatient of heat, and delight in cold.
Although so large a beast, it thrives upon the coarsest pasturage, and its usual food consists of a rough wiry grass, which grows in all the higher valleys of Thibet, up to an elevation of nearly twenty thousand feet. Yak seem to wander about a good deal. In summer the cows are generally to be found in herds varying in numbers from ten to one hundred; while the old bulls are for the most part solitary or in small parties of three or four. They feed at night and early in the morning, and usually betake themselves to some steep and barren hillside during the day, lying sometimes for hours in the same spot. Old bulls in particular seem to rejoice in choosing a commanding situation for their resting-place, and their tracks may be found on the tops of the steepest hills, far above the highest traces of vegetation. The yak is not apparently a very sharp-sighted beast, but its sense of smell is extremely keen, and this is the chief danger to guard against in stalking it. In the high valleys of Thibet, where so many glens intersect one another, and where the temperature is continually changing, the wind is equally variable. It will sometimes shift to every point of the compass in the course of a few minutes, and the best-planned stalk may be utterly spoiled.
When alarmed or expecting danger, the cows and older bulls place them-selves in the van and on the flanks of the herds, with the calves in the center; but on the near approach of a hunter the whole herd will take to flight at a gallop, with their heads down and their tails in the air. A wounded yak, whether cow or bull, will not infrequently charge.
The most distinctive peculiarity of the yak is the mass of long hair with which the flanks, limbs and tail are clothed, and which makes the general appearance of the animal so very different from that of other oxen. On the head and upper-parts of the body the hair is short and nearly smooth, and the long hair only commences on the lower part of the sides where it forms a fringe of great depth, extending forwards across the shoulders and backwards onto the thighs. On the tail the long hair is developed on the lower half, where it expands into an enormous tuft which does not generally reach below the hocks. There is also a tuft of long hair on the breast. The color of the hair is a uniform dark blackish brown, sometimes tending to a rusty tint on the flanks and back, and with a gray grizzle on the upper part of the head and neck in very old individuals. Around the muzzle there is a little white. We frequently find the yak represented as a brown and white, or even a pure white animal, but all such specimens are domesticated, and mostly hybrid individuals.
When I visited a Thibetan monastery I was struck with the number of yak-tails suspended as streamers from tall poles fixed in the ground before the entrance. The more general use of these appendages throughout the East is, however, in the form of fly-whisks. For this purpose pure white tails are preferred; and they are frequently mounted with the twisted horn of a black-buck as a handle. In China yak-tails dyed red are affixed to the roofs of the residences as pendants.
Although the yak is timid and runs away at the approach of the hunter, I had a different experience with an old blackish bull yak that I wounded without killing. He charged at me with his head down, and was so close that I had little chance to run. I was in an open space, and there was not a tree in sight. Fortunately there was a large rock near by, and I ran behind it. The maddened yak dashed against the rock with such violence that its skull was fractured and it fell dead from the terrific shock.
There are many domesticated yaks in Central Asia. In some sections they are used at the plow, and can also be broken to ride, but they are usually vicious. Those used for riding are guided by the nose. In the summer the wild yaks shrink from the heat and make their homes on the loftiest plateaus of the mountains.