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Yak, Datong, Qinghai, China (Zhonglin Lu)

Yak (Bos mutus)

Other names: drong, brong-dong (wild), ya (domestic male), dri (domestic female), pegu (tame), banchour, kuch-gau, boku (old male), and kotass.12



Population estimate



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Distribution and preferred habitat

The historical range of the yak included China, northern India, and Nepal.1 There is also evidence that they once could be found in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and southern Russia until the 13th–18th centuries.2 The species is currently thought to be extinct in both Nepal and Bhutan.1

In China there are scattered populations on the Tibetan Plateau, and the main populations are found in the Chang Tang Reserve.3,4 Other large populations are found in southeastern Xinjiang, Qinghai, and adjacent areas of the Kunlun Mountains.5,6,7 There are isolated populations to the north and south of the main population.1 There are thought to be feral populations in a few places within China, but these are not thought to be of conservation importance.8

Wild yaks favour areas of alpine tundra, grasslands, and cold desert regions, ranging from 4,000 to 6,100 metres elevation.1,9 In some areas, such as northwestern Tibet, lakes are generally saline and there is little surface water, with temperatures as low as -40°C.1 There is sparse vegetation, with the most common being grasses sedges, forbs, and shrubs.10 The yak migrates seasonally from the high regions in summer to the lower valleys in winter.2,11 The species primarily feeds on grasses and sedges.1