Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/211

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RANGE AND PHYSICAL QUALITIES.

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are shorter and lighter, the hump smaller, and the tail and flanks not nearly so hairy.

But in order to have a correct idea of the yak, he should be seen in his native state, on vast plains which lie at an elevation of 15,000 feet, seamed with rocky ridges as wild and barren as the surrounding deserts, where the scanty herbage finds little encouragement to grow, owing to the constant cold and the violent storms of wind which rage throughout the greater part of the year. In these inhospitable wastes, in the midst of a desolate nature, yet far removed from pitiless man, the famous long-haired ox roams in unrestricted freedom. This animal, peculiarly characteristic of the highlands of Tibet, is also found further north, and is said to haunt in considerable numbers the mountain ranges of Kan-su near the headwaters of the Tatung and Etsina, the northernmost limit of its distribution. In Kan-su, however, it is becoming extinct, owing to the way in which it is persecuted by the native hunters.

In some physical qualities the yak is singularly inferior to other wild animals. Endowed with enormous strength and an excellent sense of smell, its sight and hearing are defective. Even on a clear day, and on perfectly level ground, it cannot distinguish a man at any great distance, and in misty weather it cannot see him when comparatively near. Again, it requires a very loud noise to attract its attention, but its sense of smell is very keen, and it will scent a man half-a mile to windward.