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Ethnic and Cultural Diversity amongst Yak Herding Communities in the Asian Highlands

International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), G.P.O. Box 3226, Kathmandu 44700, Nepal
Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), No.9 Section 4, Renmin Nan Road, Chengdu 610041, China
State Key Laboratory of Grassland and Agro-Ecosystems, International Centre for Tibetan Plateau Ecosystem Management, School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, Gansu, China
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 957;
Received: 29 November 2019 / Revised: 13 January 2020 / Accepted: 18 January 2020 / Published: 28 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Social Ecology and Sustainability)
Yak (Bos grunniens L.) herding plays an important role in the domestic economy throughout much of the Asian highlands. Yak represents a major mammal species of the rangelands found across the Asian highlands from Russia and Kyrgyzstan in the west to the Hengduan Mountains of China in the east. Yak also has great cultural significance to the people of the Asian highlands and is closely interlinked to the traditions, cultures, and rituals of the herding communities. However, increasing issues like poverty, environmental degradation, and climate change have changed the traditional practices of pastoralism, isolating and fragmenting herders and the pastures they have been using for many years. Local cultures of people rooted in the practice of yak herding are disappearing. Therefore, it is very important to document the socioeconomic and cultural aspects of yak herding. The broad aim of this paper was to provide a brief overview on the geographical distribution of yak in the Asian highlands and to provide in-depth information on yak-herding ethnic communities, the sociocultural aspect associated with yak herding, and challenges and emerging opportunities for yak herding in the Asian highlands. Altogether, 31 ethnic groups in 10 different countries of Asia and their cultures are documented herein. Yak was found to be utilized for many different household purposes, and to have cultural and religious aspects. Unfortunately, yak rearing and related traditions have been losing their charm in recent years due to modernization and several other environmental issues. Lastly, we suggest that there is an urgent need to take action to minimize the challenges faced by yak-herding mountain communities to conserve the traditional pastoral system and associated cultures of these ethnic communities. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bos grunniens; culture; ethnic diversity; herding; pastoralism; yak Bos grunniens; culture; ethnic diversity; herding; pastoralism; yak
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Joshi, S.; Shrestha, L.; Bisht, N.; Wu, N.; Ismail, M.; Dorji, T.; Dangol, G.; Long, R. Ethnic and Cultural Diversity amongst Yak Herding Communities in the Asian Highlands. Sustainability 2020, 12, 957.

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