Behaviour and Work
Yaks are shy animals. They get used to the person who feeds them and works with them, who they know and whom they trust. Every new person has to give them time to get used to their presence. Don’t go too close to an animal you don’t know, don’t make abrupt movements. Every yak that panics can make a bluff charge or attack for real. A cow will always defend her calf vigorously. Dogs who get too close to the herd will be attacked, since the yak still has the instinct to defend the herd against wolves.
Yak behaviour falls between cattle and horses, but they can also be as stubborn as a mule when something doesn’t seem logical to them. They have a strong character, but are very sensible. Intelligent and quick, they have the ability to be trained for draught, packing or riding. Training needs patience, time, creativity and a sensible mind. They don’t respond well to violence; at first scared, they will become aggressive and are often resentful.
Yaks are animals from cold climates: stoic, they often analyse a situation before moving. You have to give them time and be patient. Once they are in the rhythm of walking, they can go on for hours.
When training a yak, you have to be aware that yaks communicate with each other with their horns. They gesture with their horns like we gesture with our hands. These gestures are more pronounced and brusque towards people they don’t know. This is the same as when we try to communicate with somebody who doesn’t speak our language and we try to make ourselves understood with big gestures. For this reason, always be careful when you enter the movement radius of a yak’s horns, they can make a quick gesture and hurt you without meaning to. Never approach a yak you don’t know head-on – approach from the side and make contact by placing your hand on their croup.