SEATTLE — Agricultural inspectors on the lookout for banned meat and produce at Sea-Tac International Airport made a bizarre discovery recently - a shipment of four yak skulls from Tibet.
Officials said the skulls actually were found by "Woody," a beagle trained to detect banned agricultural items as part of the inspection program.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service, Woody detected something wrong with a duffel bag on a flight arriving from Japan.
When inspectors checked the bag, they found skulls from four yaks - a large, long-haired ox native to Tibet and high elevation areas of central Asia.
The owner of the duffel bag was contacted and said he had found two of the skulls while hiking in Tibet and purchased the other two in a nearby village store. The two skulls found while hiking still had dried hide and flesh attached.
The skulls were seized and ultimately destroyed to prevent the introduction of animal diseases into the United States.
Inspectors are particularly concerned about the potential introduction of foot-and-mouth disease, a highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine that has been eradicated in the United States since 1929.
A foot-and-mouth outbreak in the United States could devastate the U.S. livestock industry with the potential for millions of head of livestock being destroyed.
The discovery of the yak skulls was made April 30, and was announced Thursday by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service.