The 'Yak Man' of Cold Spring calls it a career


His name is John Hooper, although he's probably better known as the Yak Man.

But the St. Cloud Times reports the last animals in his herd have been sold off and Hooper is almost ready to follow them away from the farm near Cold Spring.

The Times says Hooper's herd once numbered 80 head and was the biggest commercial yak operation in the eastern half of the U.S. He tells the newspaper he didn't know what a yak was until they day in 1996 when he bought six of them from a farmer in North Dakota.

Not familiar with yaks? Here's some background from the International Yak Association, where John Hooper is a former president.

Yaks are native to central Asia, particularly Tibet where they are the national animal. Hooper says many Tibetans living in Minnesota have visited his farm over the years to see the animals.

In 2012 he told the Dairyland Peach about a brother and sister living in Stillwater who made the trip. He remembered the woman stroking one of the yaks with tears running down her face. “She had left Tibet when she was 14 and thought she was never going to see a yak again,” Hooper told the Peach.

In 2008 he told MPR News about Jericho,who weighed nearly 1,000 pounds and whose horns were the longest on record for a yak. Hooper said a Tibetan monk had visited to bless Jericho, who was then considered sacred and allowed to live out his years on the farm.

The Dairyland Peach article mentions that Land O' Lakes International overhauled a milk plant in China near the Tibetan border that used only yak milk. Hooper became a consultant to the plant which paid for him to spend a month living among the nomads of the area, sleeping in yak-hair tents.

Now Hooper, 64, plans to do a different sort of traveling. He tells the St. Cloud Times his wife Becky is retiring in August and the two will hit the road with a pull-behind camper.

"But, when we go traveling," says the Yak Man, "I'm sure we'll visit some yak herds. That will be part of the pastime."

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