KALISPELL — In Montana there are cattle ranches and farms, but one ranch in Kalispell has a herd of Tibetan animals with hooves and horns — yaks.
“We have elk in the backyard and bears everywhere, sometimes moose and gobs of badgers,” said Jim Watson, the owner of Spring Brook Yak Ranch.
But the wildlife is not the only kind of creature on Spring Brook Yak Ranch. Yes, you heard that right: 48 hairy and large mammals usually found in Tibet can be found near Kalispell. Thanks to their lung capacity, they can handle more than just Montana winters.
“It’s just natural for yaks. They fit right in,” said Watson.
Watson walks the thousand acres of his ranch every day with his herd of Yaks always nearby.
They're an ox-like mammal with dark, long and silky hair, a horse-like tail and a full, bushy mane.
Owning them may be a way to make money, but he and his wife run this yak ranch for one reason.
“We do it more out of love. We don’t have to make a living at it,” said Watson.
Watson says the horned mammals are superior to their more common pasture mates.
“Yaks are more intelligent than cattle. Sorry cows, I hate to demean you,” said Watson.
The yaks can weigh anywhere from 500 to 1,300 pounds, but Watson says they are gentle giants.
“They come running with their tails up and bucking and kicking. They are happy to see me so that helps, and I walk among them and call their names and scratch them,” said Watson.
As Watson performs the tasks of a ranch owner, the yaks love to be shown attention.
“They’re very gentle and they’re completely domesticated,” said Watson.
Watson says inheriting the ranch from his father-in-law, who owned the property for 50 years prior, allowed him to own a little piece of bliss.
“We like our neighborhood. We have our own piece of paradise here,” said Watson.
Restaurants and cafes around Kalispell and Whitefish actually sell the yak meat, but the ranch only harvests the ones with anger problems.
“We only eat the mean and ugly ones, and unlike llamas and alpacas, which are actually pretty tasty, it's socially acceptable to eat yaks; at the end of the day, they’re just cows,” said Watson.You can visit the Raven in Lakeside or even Hop’s in Downtown Kalispell to try a taste of yak.
If you ever pay a visit to the Spring Brook Ranch, a yak isn't the only exotic animal you'll find.
Carlos, a Bactrian camel, also calls the ranch home.