The yak is a multi-purpose animal, providing its owners with milk (and the resultant milk products), meat, hair and wool, hide, work as a draught animal (packing, riding, ploughing) and faeces - important as fuel in the absence of trees, but also as manure and as a building material. As noted from earlier chapters, the harsh but varied environment greatly affects the performance of the animals and the output of the various products. There are also differences among types and breeds of yak, though these differences are usually confounded with differences among the areas where these types and breeds are located.
This chapter will look, in turn, at each of the main performance characteristics of yak. Discussion of yak management and of the harvesting and utilization of the products appears in later chapters.