The yak is regarded as one of the world’s most remarkable domestic animals. It lives in conditions of extreme harshness and deprivation while providing a livelihood for people.
Chinese historians have argued that without the yak’s capacity to live in such a hostile environment, human civilization might not have established and flourished in remote areas.
Yak (Bos grunniens) is native to high mountains of Asia mostly in Tibet, Xingjiang autonomous region of China, Shimshal valley in the Karakoram ranges of Pakistan, Tajikistan, and India and in Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan. Yaks were first domesticated in Tibet in 1000 BC and have always been the most useful domestic animal at high elevations, above 3,200 meters to 5,500m.
Yak can climb as high as 6,500 meters and can also be successfully raised at very low elevations. Yak is a very efficient food-converting animal and does well on a variety of pastures with no supplemental feed required. The yak grazes on grasses, herbs, and lichens. In winter it eats poor coarse grass, withered leaves, and twigs, and quenches the thirst with snow and ice. Yak is a sure-footed climber.
It has a great lung capacity. Even its blood cells are designed for high elevations — half the size of those of cattle, and three times more in number — increasing the blood capacity to carry oxygen. The dense coat enables yak to successfully survive temperatures as low as -40 degree Celsius. Yak’s respiratory rate increases with heat and low altitudes and decreases at high cooler climates.
No doubt, yaks are very useful animals in term of using for transport, meat, milk productions.
Yaks in Pakistan
In Pakistan, yaks are found in Shimshal, Passu, Wakhan, Nagar, and Baltistan in the Karakoram and Himalayan regions of Pakistan. But its major concentration is in Shimshal valley in the Khunjerab National Park in the northeast of Gilgit bordering China. Shimshal is located in the Karakoram Range. The elevations range from Shimshal village (3,108 meters) to the highest summit Destughil Sar (7,885 meters). Approximately 80 percent of the Shimshal region falls into this high mountain zone.
The local people engaged with the tourism industry have introduced the “Yak Safari” in the valley and now every year hundreds of tourists rash up to there to experience the unique traveling adventure.