Many programmers have heard of the phrase yak shaving. In real life, do yaks literally get shaved?

This answer to a question about shaving dogs has someone claiming that yaks do get shaved:

Whatever you call it, removing the hair from a yak can be hazardous to your health!

Photo of a person and a yak

with an additional comment by the answerer

Rare, but not non-existent ... :-)

A page talking about yak wool seems to suggest they don't literally get shaved:

Mongolian yak live at high altitudes and endure harsh winter conditions. This means they produce a robust and unique wool that can be as soft as cashmere, warmer than merino wool, odour-resistant, breathable and less prone to pilling and fluffing than other woollen fibres. This precious wool can be sourced only by hand-combing each yak individually, once a year, when the yak shed their winter coats.

Do yaks literally get shaved, especially if living in their normal environment?

1 Answer 1


According to Milady Standard Cosmetology, page 534:

Yak. This strong fiber comes from the domestic ox found in the mountains of Tibet and Central Asia. Yak hair is shaved and processed and used alone or blended with human hair.

The word "shearing" is more applicable than "shaving".

According to Handbook of Natural Fibres: volume 1, Types, Properties and Factors Affecting Breeding and Cultivation at page 275

In India, Clipped yak fibre refers to fibre from the body of the yak obtained by shearing with hand shears or a shearing machine

Also, there is a photo series "Yakfight" in Jiajin Mountain - shearing yak hair with excerpt and one of the photos copied below:

Shearing yak hair must be done every year before summer so that the dog days will not be unbearable for the yaks. It is an important event for the local tibetans in Qiaoqi Tibetan Autonomous Township, Baoxing County, Sichuan Province.

enter image description here

There is even an official US Library of Congress subject heading for Yak Shearing.

  • Oddly enough, the second reference also has reference to shears being forbidden in some context: "Shears tend to be forbidden".
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 10:44
  • @AndrewGrimm another reference says "Shearing yak hair must be done every year before summer so that the dog days will not be unbearable for the yaks." and has photo of using hand shears. news.cultural-china.com/20090611104705.html I guess it depends upon the local climate and time of year.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 13:14
  • 2
    I like how this makes the original yak-shaving analogy even more apt: "...and the next thing you know, you're in the Library of Congress, researching whether you can use shears in your region, so that you can shave a yak so that you can..." Commented Feb 7, 2016 at 18:14

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