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."

Next Up


DirecTV subscribers could lose KARE 11 on Tuesday

A new contract needs to be agreed upon by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

prison, Rush City cell block

Inmate from Rush City prison dies after COVID-19 diagnosis

The man is the fifth incarcerated person in Minnesota to die from COVID-19.


Belle Plaine man dies after duck boat capsizes on lake

One man was found sitting on the overturned boat while another man was in the water.

Screen Shot 2020-11-29 at 4.59.51 PM

Watch: Adam Thielen watches end of Vikings/Panthers just like all of us

The Vikings receiver looked like a true fan on Sunday afternoon.

Chad Beebe

Chad Beebe's roller-coaster fourth-quarter keeps Vikings playoff hopes alive

A muffed punt and a game-winning touchdown helped defeat the Panthers on Sunday afternoon.


West-central MN cops warn kids to stay off ice, or 'Santa won't come'

This comes amid repeated ice warnings across the state.

covid-19, coronavirus, PPE

Nov. 29 COVID-19 update: 57 deaths, nearly 9,000 more cases

Nearly 100,000 tests were included in Sunday's report.

jim ramstad

Watch former Rep. Jim Ramstad's memorial service online

The ceremony will be live-streamed for the public on Sunday.


How high can Rashod Bateman go in the 2021 NFL Draft?

The Gophers star receiver has plenty of praise heading into next April.

TCF Bank Stadium

15 more from Gopher football team test positive for COVID-19

That brings the total number of cases from this outbreak to 40.

Teddy Bridgewater

5 questions for Vikings-Panthers Week 12 NFC battle

The Vikings welcome Teddy Bridgewater back to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

police lights

Man, 21, in custody after Albert Lea police officer shot in the chest

The officer was able to drive to an emergency room.