These Maine Farmers Raised Their Baby Yak Like a Dog

The yak imprinted on his owners after they bottle-fed him to keep him alive.

Oreo, the porch yak, standing in the driveway
Photo courtesy of Adria Horn
By Brian Kevin
From our April 2023 Animals issue

Adria and Loki Horn bought their 91-acre farm, in Pittston, in 2015. “Well, I should say, we bought a piece of land,” clarifies Adria, who, at the time, had just begun a three-year stint as director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services. “We’ve made it into a farm.” 

Oreo, the porch yak
Photo courtesy of Adria Horn

Central to that effort: the starter herd of yaks, 10 cows and two bulls, that the Horns brought to Pittston from a farmer-breeder in Pennsylvania. “They’re super multi-use animals,” Adria says. “They’re not as hard on the land as cattle. They’re super cold hardy. They’re slow to grow, but they’re meat, milk, and fiber. You can do carting or pulling. And we just thought they were kind of cool.”

Luckily, the neighbors did too, because the yaks broke through their fencing a couple of months after settling in. “And they just ran,” Adria recalls. “That’s how my husband got to know everybody on our road — going door-to-door, asking if they’d seen a yak.”

These days, the herd at Wooly & Grunts Farm is up to 40 animals, and the Horns have sold several to other Maine and New Hampshire farmers, sowing the seeds of future herds. One yak literally stands apart, though, and that’s Oreo. When he was born, two summers back, his mother couldn’t produce enough colostrum, so the Horns bottle-fed him to keep him alive. Adria says Oreo imprinted on her, and “he grew up in the mudroom and the backyard, with the dogs.” These days, Oreo (that’s him in these photos) free-roams the yard, walks with the kids to the bus stop, and sleeps on the porch. He weighs 350 pounds — bulls are considered full-grown around age eight, Adria says, when they tip the scales at 1,400 to 1,600 pounds. “He just wants to be with us — we’re his family,” she says. “We are going to have to reinforce the porch at some point.”