The Arctic Muskox, A Cold Climate Survivor. Built to Rest Comfortably at -40… WOW!!!

Musk Oxen

In Inuit "Omingmak, "the animal with skin like a beard"

The Arctic Muskox is a very impressive animal. A mature bull weights in the range of 600 to 700 pounds and mature cows from 400 to 500 pounds.

They are one of the few animals on Earth that can live in -40' temperatures with high winds, snow and darkness for extended periods of time. Their secret to achieving this feat is in their fur coat that is up to eight time warmer than Sheep's wool.

During the fall they grow an inner layer of insulating wool that is covered and protected on the outside by their long hair. They shed this inner wool or qiviut mid-summer and for several weeks look very ragged because of the process.

Musk Oxen wool is highly sought after and the yarn can sell for up to $80.00 an ounce.

Muskox in Formation

Do not think that they are clumsy because of their size. Muskox usually make slow and very deliberate moves but they are excellent runners and climbers.

They usually live in herds of 10 to 20, but sometimes a herd may be close to 100 animals.

During the summer mating season the bulls can be very dangerous and will often fight for dominance in the herd. They will charge each other with their famous crash as their two heads and horn structure come together.

muskox charging

When threatened the Muskoxen will form a ring or semi-circle around the young or weaker animals to form a defensive line protecting them from attack.

This works well against other animals, but unfortunately not so well against human hunters. The Muskox will not bread the formation and run until the hunter is a few yards away making them an easy target. Because of this some herds have been completely wiped out and others placed in severe jeopardy over the years.

With Canadian government protection numbers in the North American herd has remained very strong over the years. However in some other regions of the Arctic the animals have not fared so well and entire herd's have been driven to extinction.In some of those area's animals have been re-introduced and herd's are being re-established.

Muskox distribution map

In the above map Red indicates areas where there are established herds of Muskox doing very well. On Banks and Victoria Island's in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut there are estimated to be in excess of 85,000 animal's with other Arctic Islands having smaller populations. The Blue area's show where the species have been introduced or re-introduced and are doing their part to ensure a healthy world population of the species for generations to come.

One example of the Muskox being re-introduced to an area is in Alaska where the species was wiped out during the late 19th. century. Today Muskox roam the tundra of Alaska once again.

muskox in snow

Muskox eat various types of vegetation, and during the winter will dig through the snow pack with their hooves to access the food. When the snow becomes so hard and crusty that they cannot break it with their hooves, they will smash the crusted snow cover with their massive head, and slide the pieces away with their hooves to expose the food underneath.

Their excellent sense of smell will guide them to the source of food under the frozen Tundra.

Muskox Running

In good conditions cows produce one calf per year starting at about the age of four.

The calves are born between April & June when the weather can still be very cold. They are born with their woolly coat, and able to stand up within minutes. The young calves will find warmth from the extreme Arctic cold in the shelter of their Mother's woolly skirt, with this protection and help the young calves are able to travel with the herd almost immediately.

Muskox Calf

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