Yak facts: Did You Know?

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

By Dr. Peter Hackett

-Yaks have 30 chromosomes, 20,000 genes, and over 3 billion base pairs in their DNA

-Yaks descended from a common ancestor of cattle, bison, banteng and gaur

-Yaks genetically diverged from cattle 4.9 million years ago

-Yaks were domesticated on the Tibetan Plateau about 7500 years ago

-This permitted human expansion in that area

-Domestication may have been via hybridization with cattle

-Wild yak and domestic yak are genetically extremely similar

-Both have small amounts of cattle DNA, about 1-2%

-Some Asian yaks have DNA that indicates recent cattle introgression

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