MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On a typical Minnesota farm, you will find all kinds of animals: chickens, goats, horses – but how about yaks?
That’s life for one Goodhue County family. They have a herd of about 30 yaks. Even though the animals are native to the Tibetan Plateau, one of them is now a world-record holder.
In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us why raising yaks is a different animal.
At Clear Spring Farm, creatures of all shapes and sizes take center stage – there’s a horse named Mac, a fainting goat named Vinyl and Angora rabbits are scattered about. But all signs point to one particular animal that’s taken over as the main attraction.
“They’ve become more like a dog than a yak,” said Ellie Smith as she milks a yak calf named Greta.
One-month-old Greta is the youngest and by far the most energetic yak on the farm. A farm Melodee and Hugh Smith never imagined would become home to a herd of animals native to another part of the world.
“We wanted an animal that was unique – multi-purpose and potentially profitable,” Melodee said.
So in 2012, they drove to a yak farm near Cold Spring with the thought of buying just one.
“Seven yaks later we had our first yak herd,” Melodee said.
“I was a little worried, but things have turned out well. It’s been an amazing journey,” added Hugh. Some of his friends now refer to him as “Hugh Yackman.”
The herd has grown and they’ve truly become yaks of all trades. They’re used for their meat, their fiber and their affectionate ability to educate others.
“They love attention. They will come up and push another one away to get your attention,” Melodee said.
Melodee gave the animals what they wanted by starting a yak camp for kids to learn.
“A lot of fun. I love it,” camp-goer Cami Gadient said. “I like that they’re unique. Not a lot of people have heard of them.”
But it’s possible they’ve heard of a yak named Jericho.
“He is now the Guinness Record holder for longest yak horns in the world,” Melodee said.
Twenty-year-old Jericho’s famous horns are over 11 feet long. Last winter, it took some official people to help set the record straight and get Jericho the recognition he deserves.
“I’m the only vet in the world recognized as a yak horn measurer,” veterinarian Bill Wustenberg said.
Jericho is also a hit among Nepalese people. He’s become a bit of a celebrity at local festivals.
“He was blessed by a Tibetan monk, which makes him a consecrated animal,” Melodee said.
That means he can never be used as food and essentially gets to live out his life however he wants.
With their split hooves and long hair, animals used to the high elevation of the Himalayas have no problem with the pastures of Goodhue County, and the Smiths believe they’ve hit the yak pot.
“No regrets. I’d do it all over again. I’m a yak promoter and big yak fan. It’s a great opportunity for sure,” Melodee said.