Yaks survive at altitudes sometimes exceeding five thousand metres in the harsh highlands of the Himalayas, and, over centuries have developed a warm coat that helps them survive such challenging conditions - fibre developed by nature, to survive its extremes. Yaks specifically yield three types of fibre:
Traditionally used by nomads to make ropes and tents, it exceeds 50 microns, and would make strong but uncomfortable yarn and fabrics. This is the guard hair most visible on the animal, and perhaps what leads people to believe yak wool is very coarse.
Usually between 25 - 50 microns, with the potential to be spun into yarn, but would again be strong yet uncomfortable to wear. However their strength can make them suitable for other applications such as woven outerwear fabrics.
The softest of all fibres, finer than 20 microns in diameter, we focus on using those between 17.5-19 microns to ensure garments are extremely soft and warm. While we could use finer, we believe this bracket gives us the right balance between softness and durability. The yield of this fibre is relatively low, meaning it is expensive to source, but worth it due to its incredible warmth and comfort.
PROPERTIES OF YAK WOOL
Tests in the 1980s showed that even in -18*C weather, animal's skin temperature was between 8-20*C. While our own like-for-like tests showed yak to be roughly 10-15% warmer than comparable merino fabric, there have been tests indicating it could in fact be much warmer.
It doesn't smell...
Yak wool is anti-microbial, meaning it fights off the small microbes that live off sweat and build up on the surface of certain other fibres. In real-world terms this means you can simply air your sweater, saving water from laundering, and packing less on your travels.
It resists static...
Performing better than other animal fibres including comparable cashmere fibres, Yak wool is far less likely to spark or cling to the body than other fibres, particularly synthetics.
It breathes well...
There is nothing worse than a suffocating fabric on the skin. Understandably, animal fibres breath better all others and yak is no exception.
It wicks moisture away...
Yak wool wicks moisture from your body into the surrounding environment, avoiding the sweaty and or 'clammy' sensation one gets wearing synthetics.
It's incredibly soft...
While surprising at first glance of such an imposing animal, hidden under the strands of guard hair are the sub 19 micron down that give yak its luxurious feel. It is easy to confuse it with cashmere.
Stronger than a sheep...
Yak has been shown to contain higher levels of sulphur-based proteins and amino acids than sheep fibre, believed to be one of the reasons yak has been shown to have superior strength than sheep wool.
SOME RANDOM YAK FACTS
Over 90% of the world's 15 million yaks live on the Tibetan Plateau or in the Himalayas. Lamps in Tibetan monasteries are fuelled by yak butter. Yak cheese has higher amounts of heart-healthy fats than cheese from dairy cattle. Yak polo, played on yaks instead of horses, was pioneered in Mongolia a decade ago. The first yakalo, a cross between a yak and an American bison, was produced through selective breeding in Alberta, Canada in 2000. A major use for the yak’s coarse tail hair is to create fake beards worn by actors in Chinese opera. In local communities, yak bone is often made into exquisite handicrafts, including combs, buttons and ornaments. The only natural predator of the wild yak is the wolf which will try to kill baby yaks (boo). In Mongolia yak milk is fermented in a leather pouch and distilled as a "milk wine" called archi. In winter a wild yak can survive temperatures as low as - 40 degrees (C). A wild yak doesn’t reach full size until six to eight years of age. Dried yak dung is used as fuel on the treeless Tibetan plateau. The male wild yak can reach up to 6.5 feet high at the shoulder and can weigh as much as 2,200 pounds. Wild female yaks are up to a third of the male’s size. Domestic male yaks are much smaller in size and weigh up to 1,300 pounds while domestic female yaks weigh up to 560 pounds. Even in the below-freezing winters, yaks have been spotted bathing in lakes and rivers. Its coat provides insulation through a thick outer coating of guard hair and a dense inner coating of down. It is believed that the strength of yak wool comes from the high levels of amino acids contained within the fibres. Yak wool is very resistant to static electricity meaning garments are less likely to spark or cling to the body during dry conditions.