Chinese scientists are promoting a freshly developed breed of yak to herders in the country's northwest.
Ashidan yaks have been cultivated by Yan Ping and her team from the Lanzhou Institute of Husbandry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, a branch of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, after 20 years' research.
Unlike other yaks who have hostile tempers and horns, these shy creatures have the same fluffy heads but no horns to bear.
Yaks provide for the living of herdsmen in China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, but these animals are mostly born wild and they are easily affected by natural conditions.
"Yaks may lose a quarter of their weight through the winter, and some may die of atrocious weather, bringing great loss to herdsmen," Yan said.
Naturally, about 6 percent or 7 percent of yaks in Qinghai have no horns and these were selected for the breeding program. Together with Datong Yak Breeding Farm in northwest China's Qinghai Province, Yan's team selected local yaks born without horns and used molecular breeding technology to cultivate new yak varieties.
"The newly bred variety has a mild temperament and they are more accustomed to staying indoors," said Li Guoqing, a worker who has raised yaks for more than 30 years on the farm.
"Without horns, yaks are less likely to get injured and thus can grow stronger," said Sangye, a herdsman in Quanji Township, Gangcha County in Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
According to the team, the average reproduction survival rate of the Ashidan yaks is 59.98 percent, 11.72 percentage points higher than local yaks, and its mortality rate is 1.24 percent, 4.32 percentage points lower.
So far, the Ashidan yaks have been introduced to pastoral areas in China's Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan provinces to help local herdsmen alleviate poverty. Researchers said they hope to promote the new breed to all yak-raising areas including Tibet Autonomous Region.
"The future is promising. Currently, the number of the Ashidan yaks cannot meet the demand of the market," said Yan.
The research team is improving their breeding technology to raise the efficiency of propagation.