The long horned, shaggy coated yak is one of the hairiest species of cattle. It's also one of the few animals able to thrive on the barren Tibetan plateau where the air is icy and thin. Herds of wild yak, each up to a thousand, once roamed the desolate high country of central Asia. Because of over hunting probably only 500 wild yaks remain today. The domestic yak is numerous however and plays a vital role in the lives of the tribes that live in the mountains north of the Himalayas.
The wild yak lives high among the snow-covered mountains of Tibet at altitudes between 13,000 and 20,000 feet. Its thick skin and long shaggy coat, which almost reaches the ground, protect it from the bitter cold. Its coat is so thick and warm that the yak can sleep comfortably directly on the snow.
The yaks great strength and its ability to survive at high altitudes have made it invaluable to many nomadic mountain peoples. Domestic yaks are both ridden and used as pack animals. Their wool is spun into yarn for clothing and their milk is drunk and made into cheese and butter. Both wild and domestic yaks are killed for their meat and skins.
Yak fiber is soft and smooth with wonderful hand. It exists in several colors, including shades of gray, brown, black and white. It's combed or shed from the yak and then dehaired with the result being a soft downy fiber similar to that of the camel.
Looking at the yak in these pictures it's difficult to imagine anything soft coming off of them. But the handspun yak yarns that I've been working into Pussy Caps have been absolutely amazing - some of them even being so soft that they feel like those little puffs of dust that you pull out from under your bed once in awhile. Yes, dust bunnies. That's what yak down can feel like.
The darker bands in this Pussy Cap are crocheted from a naturally colored handspun yak & camel down.