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what is a yak

What is a Yak?

Having Yak wool Shawl is a comfort as well as a luxury. The colorful array of shawls hanged beautifully would astound anyone’s mind. These wools are naturally brown to fawn in color and are very warm and shiny having a higher luster than normal wool.

Yak wool fibers are very fine, being around 17 to 19 microns in diameter, which is around the same fineness as cashmere. Thus, it is relevant that it would cost you a fortune. Also, fortunately, the price would be worth its quality.

The Process of Making Yak Wool in Nepal

making of yak wool shawl in nepal
Making of Yak Wool Shawl in Factory

As you can guess, ‘Yak wool’ is naturally warm wool that derives from the animal named ‘Yak’. They are basically a buffalo with longer, shaggier hair that lives in extremely cold and harsh environments, mostly in the mountains of Tibet and Nepal, at the altitude of 3000 meters above sea level.

Due to their natural habitat, the wool that comes from the Yak provides incredible warmth when worn. And, to make a fine warm colorful shawl, a yak must be reared from a young age, its hair must be sheared, cleaned and refined and made ready.

Yaks naturally shed these luxuriously silky hairs every spring. These warm wools are harvested by combing when the coat of the yak falls off annually between June and July. Come shedding season, herders will comb the yaks to remove the undercoat, which is then cleaned and spun into ultra-fine yarns.

How many layers of coat does Yak Fiber have?

Yaks fiber makes three distinct layers of coats of wool. They are listed as follow:

  • The Outer layer (Course Type):
    These long thick types of fiber are very strong in general. These 79–90 microns fibers are used by nomad’s intent and ropes making. This course fiber forms the outer coat of long hair that characterizes the yak’s appearance.
  • The Central Later (Mid Type):
    This 20–50 microns thick Yak coat is found in the middle region. It’s neither strong enough for the rope nor fine enough for the making clothes. This type of wool is used to make sacks or bags.
  • The Inner Layer (The Down type):
    This finest fiber layer (16–20 microns) is the best material for the shawl you are looking. Generally, this layer is shed by the animal during the late spring and early summer months.

This fine inner layer helps the yak to survive extremely cold temperatures (even up to −40 °C, or −58 °F) and altitudes well above 3000 m.

How much quantity of fiber can one yak produce?

In general, a Yak can shed 2.5kg of fiber in a year among which around 50 percent is down the fiber. Yak of the Henduan Alpine named Jiulong yak produces up to 25 kg fiber in a year. The production of wool depends on gender, breed, health, and age.

Why Yak wool outperforms Merino wool?

The Yak wool has been proved to outperform sheep’s wool in a number of a domain. Here are few of them listed:

  • Warmth:
    Some individual conducted test has shown that Yak wool is 10 to 40 percent warmer than Merion’s wool. Though not confirmed, it is predicted that yak wool is rich in a fatty acid named myristic acid that makes it warm.
  • Softness:
    The diameter of Yak fiber ranges 16 to 20 microns which is less than cashmere’s 18.5. This means it’s softer than luxurious than any other wool brand in the market.
  • Breathability:
    In a general sense, wool’s comfort is about its thermo-balance characteristics. Wool can absorb 5% more moisture than merino’s wool making it more breathable.
  • Odor-resistance:
    Unlike popular belief, Yaks wool does not have a strong odor. In addition, yak fiber uses anti-microbial properties to prevent bacteria from combing sweat to cause a foul smell.

How expensive is Yak wool products?

Yak Wool Shawl Stripe Light Green Color
Yak Wool Shawl is made-up from the underbelly wool of Himalayan Yak in Nepal.

Yak wool costs $16 per ounce (1 kg makes 35 ounces) carded and cleaned or $4 per ounce unguarded. Merion wool on the other hand costs $2 a kilogram to. Basically, its 70 times more expensive than Merino wools. However, the price can differ to time and location of purchase.

What are the Yak wool products that we can buy in Nepal?

yak wool shawl in local market
Local vendors displaying Yak wool shawl for sale.

In Kathmandu, you can find Yak Wool Shawl all-round the city in shops of Thamel, Basantapur, Patan, and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares. Pashmina and Yak wool products are a major attraction of the handicrafts and clothing market of Nepal, thus they are easily found around most tourist attractions in Nepal. These products will consist mostly of yak wool shawl, yak wool scarves, yak wool blanket, Pashmina sweaters, woolen jackets, woolen gloves, and woolen caps.

About Yak

Himalayan Yak in Nepal

Yak is a member of the cattle family that lives in the icy mountainous regions of Central Asia. Especially in the Himalayan region of Nepal, you can see them dwelling around. There are two types of Yak noted: the dome

The Yaks have short but thick legs, rounded cloven hooves, and a bulky frame. They seem to be wild and huge with an extremely dense and shaggy long coat that almost hangs down to the ground. Unlike their looks suggests, Yaks are very gentle pets that always roam in a herd. Basically a vegetarian, they feed upon grass, herbs, wildflowers, mosses, and lichens.

In Conclusion

Yak wool is 20% warmer than merino and just as strong as cashmere. Since the wool fibers are hollow, they are able to trap air and provide high warmth-to-weight ratios. Therefore, yak has excellent warmth retention. It is incredibly soft and has a silk-like hand feel. They have a high resistance to pilling and sagging and it also has a natural resistance to odor. Thus, sweaters made from yak wool will be amongst the most reliable and durable sweaters in your wardrobe.

For thousands of years, nomads in the Trans-Himalayan regions have been using Yak fiber wool to make clothing, tents, ropes, and blankets. While they must face the severe cold temperature of below zero degrees Celsius all-round the year, these yak fiber clothes are a real savior. Call them a hero of trans-Himalayas or a protector, Yak wools and Yaks are inseparable belongings of those nomads since centuries.

1 comment

  1. […] Wool is also known as Yak Fiber which is made from the coat hair of Yaks. Yaks are long-haired cow-like animals found in the mountains in the Himalayan region of Nepal. You can […]

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