Bos grunniensThe Yak


The yak makes its habitat in very harsh conditions with elevations between 6,000 and 16,000 feet about sea level, so the yak must be extremely well adapted to live in such an extreme environment.
The Himalayas and other highly elevated areas are not very densely populated, even by humans because it takes so much to survive there. While this means that yaks do not have a lot of competition or predators, it also means that yaks have to work hard just to survive. Yaks have special adaptations to help them excel at high elevations.

The yak's tongue is extremely rough, making it well adapted for scraping mosses and lichens off of rocks and other tough surfaces.
Like other bovines, the yak has a rumen. This is a part of the stomach that partially digests food and then used as cud. Unlike the common cow, yaks have a larger rumen so that they can take more food in and let it sit in the rumen for a longer period of time. This is extremely necessary to the lifestyle of the yak because they diet on very nutrient poor vegetation and a digestive system that can absorb as much of the nutrients taken in is preferred. The yak also has a longer intestine because of its diet than a carnivore. This allows the yak to get every nutrient out of its food before expelling the excess as waste. Because of the severe habitat, a yak needs a lot of nutrients to keep moving, to keep warm, and to get oxygen to all of its cells. Efficient nutrient intake is a must. One of the most common ruminants is the goat, take a look at the site to see the similarities!
Another quality that makes the yak different from average cattle is that yaks have larger lungs and heart and a larger blood count. This allows for very successful blood flow at very cold temperatures, efficient oxygen exchange, and keeps a yak's body temperature up.
As can be seen in many pictures, the yak appears to be extremely hairy. This coarse coat helps keep the yak warm and helps prevent the desiccation of water and keep nutrients in.
The habitat of the yak is extremely rocky and of various elevations. The broad hooves of the yak allow it to travel across its habitat without falling and allow it to reach food sources.
The yak also needs broad hooves to migrate to lower elevations with more vegetation during the coldest parts of winter. This is an adaptation that allows the yak to survive during the most extreme temperatures, and have a food source when otherwise they would starve.

Check out the habitat that causes most of these adaptations. Continue on to see the nutrition that the yak uses to survive.