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The Milwaukee County Zoo Welcomes
Two Female Domestic Yaks,
A New Species for the Population

Yak Tinley
Tinley has a calm temperament.

Posted January 2022

The Milwaukee County Zoo recently welcomed two female domestic yaks to the population, arriving from Lake Geneva Safari Park on Jan. 13. Tinley is 13 years old and Everest is 7 years old and are now quarantining for 30 days in the outdoor habitat. Quarantine time is a normal procedure for all incoming animals, to make sure they’re healthy before joining the Zoo’s population.

The yaks’ new home is in the former outdoor Rhino habitat, as black rhino, Jozi, transferred to the Oregon Zoo in October 2021. Tinley and Everest will stay at MCZ until construction for the new Rhino habitat begins (tentatively scheduled for fall 2023).

Yak Everest
Everest has a white patch on her forehead which distinguishes her from Tinley.

The domestic yak is a long-haired bovid found throughout Asia. They are heavily built animals with a bulky frame, sturdy legs, rounded cloven hooves and extremely dense, long fur. Safari Park animal care staff report that Tinley generally has a calm temperament, while Everest is more curious.

Yaks have small ears and a wide forehead, with smooth horns that are generally dark in color. Colors can vary between yaks, some can be white, grey or brown. Both males and females have long, shaggy hair with a dense, wooly undercoat over the chest, flanks and thighs to insulate them from the cold.

The colder and snowier the better for our new yaks!

Domestic yaks have been kept for thousands of years, primarily for their milk, fiber and meat,and as a working animal. They transport goods across mountain passes for local farmers and traders as well as for climbing and trekking expeditions.

Yaks are social and live in herds of about 10-20 animals which usually consist of females and their young. During cold nights and snowstorms, yaks huddle together, positioning the calves in the center. In the Zoo’s habitat, the yaks will live outside, with a specially designed shelter for use during snowstorms if they choose. Their diet consists of mixed grass hay and a commercial brand of pellets for supplemental nutrients.

Well adapted for living in high altitudes, yaks have larger lungs and heart than cattle found at lower altitudes. Domestic yaks communicate with each other with the help of grunts. Unlike cattle, they don’t produce the characteristic bovine mooing sound.

Fun Fact: Yak dung is used for fuel. Wood is scarce in the Himalayas and many wooded areas are protected. Sherpa villagers regularly gather yak dung to fuel fires.