Birth of a yak:
Each year, Spring on the Plateau begins with the birth a new crop of yeko, or baby yaks. As children, it was an exciting time. While the adults were preoccupied with identifying the new mothers who may have trouble giving birth, we children watched. The dris, or female yaks, resented us standing too close, so we parked ourselves at a distance. We observed the adults, mostly our parents, facilitating the birth, pulling out a dark package that the mother tenderly licked. Then, the magic happened when the form pulled itself up on wobbly legs and look for its mother’s teats.
Raising and orphaned yak
Birth was the first step, but other problems could follow. Some dris died giving birth, and other, mostly new mothers would sometimes abandon their fowl, then to be raised by humans, fed dri milk in bottles. This work was entrusted to us children and we developed a close bond with the baby yak, who followed us around, hoping for the bottle. Sometimes we teased it and let it suck on our fingers. On cold nights, the abandoned and orphaned yekos would be installed on the khang, the heated platform at the center of the house, along with the lambs. We loved those times, lying on the warm platform and falling asleep cuddled with yeko and lambs.
Soon the baby yaks would be following their mothers and socializing with other yeko, forming playgroups, and could be seen gallivanting and sprinting about in little groups. When we moved camp, I watched my parents loading the yaks with their belongings, everything we would be needing for life on the pasture. I would catch a yeko or two, and stuffing my meagre possessions in a wool bag, would latch it on their backs. The yeko would follow its mother, and I would follow it all the way to our new camp, a day’s march away.