Yaks to the Nepali’s are like cars to most people. They use Yaks for everything. The Nepalese people in the mountains and outside of the main towns get their milk from Yaks which can be used to make a variety of dairy products. In addition these animals produce their fuel, wool for clothing and are transportation. Disturbing a Yak is not to be taken lightly. Yaks are sacred in the mountains. Yaks are larger and stronger then domestic cattle and they are adapted to the extreme elevations.
Some of their adaptations are their heavy coat, few sweat glands, and their red blood cells are about half the size of other bovines, which allow them to pack in more unit of blood volume. It was common to see Yaks on the trail carrying supplies, and sometimes even people. We saw one Yak that was carrying a sick person, he probably had altitude sickness. Oh wait, maybe that was me. At the higher elevations the Yaks roam freely.
Herding Yaks can be quite dangerous especially on the narrow bridges that cross the rivers. Our porter’s sister was killed the month before by a Yak that kicked her off one of those high bridges. We also saw a Yak try to kick someone and it ended up getting one of its feet stuck between the slats of the bridge. As it was struggling to free itself it twisted and broke the bottom portion of its leg. Some porters had to help pull and push on the Yak to get it across the bridge to the other side. With a broken leg that Yak would soon become a family’s barbecue.