6 Unique Facts About Yak Wool
Yak wool products have received praise from consumers around the world. The product may sound unusual, but the wool has been touted by many as warmer than merino wool and softer than cashmere. The fact that the mountain-dwelling yak produces such a fine fiber would seem unique enough, but there are other things about yak wool that sets it apart from other fibers.
1- It is an ancient product.
Mongolian and Tibetan nomads have used yak fiber for thousands of years, possibly over 5,000 years. The wool was woven into blankets and robes, made into tents and become a common material for their clothing. The nomads and herders continue to use the fiber today.
2- Different yaks produce different wool.
The type of fiber the yak produces depends on its age, gender and breed. When the wool is harvested from the creature also determines its properties. Yak fiber can be either coarse, medium, or down. Coarse fur is the topcoat of the yak and used for tent and rope making. Medium coarse fur is generally turned into blankets. The down is the fine, soft fur shed in the spring or summer that designers use for fine clothing.
3- It was once thrown out.
Shed yak fur was once thrown out by Mongolian herdsmen who had no need for the soft fur. As nomads living in a rugged natural environment, they used the stronger topcoat of their yaks for their needs. Nancy Johnson, the founder and CEO of a popular London-based menswear brand, convinced the herders to consider harvesting the wool instead. The designer brought the wool to London, and now works with 4,500 Mongolian families to fill the demand for the product.
4- Yak fiber production varies immensely.
The amount of fiber each yak produces varies from 1-25 kilograms (about 2.2 to 55 pounds) per year. Half of the fiber they produce is down because it grows in much more densely than the coarse, long top coat of the animal. The down is collected by brushing the animal before it sheds. The coarse and medium coarse fibers are cut off the animals.
5- Yak fur protects the animals in extreme weather.
Yaks survive in surprisingly hostile environments. The creatures live at a higher altitude than any other mammal and they are also exposed to extreme cold. The yaks frequently endure temperatures of -40 degrees Fahrenheit and swim in near-freezing waters. Exposure to this type of environment is not recommended for humans wearing yak wool, but the quick-drying, warm clothing made from the fiber is perfect for layering outdoor active wear.
6- Yak wool was used to soundproof a room in a Rotterdam gallery.
Felt artist, Claudy Jongstra, used Yak’s wool as a soundproofing material in one of her creations in 2008. The artist turned the fiber into a dense felt and applied it to a wall in the Kunsthal in a series of graphic white lines. The felt was left exposed, as many other building materials are in the modern space, and it remains on display. Over 300, 000 visitors a year can appreciate the sound absorbing ability and visual appeal of the fiber.
Yak wool is an environmentally friendly product because it is a sustainable and renewable fiber. The yaks are less destructive to the environment than the goats the Himalayan and Mongolian herders have used for profit. The wool is rated as warmer and more breathable than merino wool and it can provide the same level of UV protection from sunlight. Yak wool stays odor free much longer than other materials due to its antimicrobial properties.