The yak may take the place of the mule in carrying food, arms and ammunition for the Indian army on the uppermost reaches of mountains.
The army's 190 Mountain Brigade is in collaboration with the National Research Centre on Yak (NRCY) here for an experiment to replace mules with yaks for forward posts at high altitudes.
The results of the experiment, headed by NRCY Senior Scientist K.P. Ramesha and Lieutenant Colenel Nirbhay Kumar, were published in the Indian Veterinary Journal (IVJ) and the Indian Journal of Animal Sciences.
“A study was conducted at (an) altitude (of) 14,400 feet in a forward army post area to determine the suitability of using yaks as pack animals during snowfall. There was no effect of snowfall on (the) speed of (the animals) as well as on (their) physiological status. Trials indicated that yaks could be used as pack animals even during heavy snowfall at high altitudes,” the summary report in the IVJ said.
A similar exercise by China apparently prompted the trial.
It snows for four months at 7,500 feet or higher along the northern frontier - from Arunachal Pradesh to Kashmir.
Posts at those heights remain virtually cut-off during this period, exposing them to possible raids from across the borders.
The yak is a hairy, bovine creature that cannot live below 7,500 feet. Its double-coat protects it from icy winds, and its high red blood cell count helps it to breathe normally up to 15,000 feet.
It can be easily trained as a pack animal.