Wildlife Profile: Muskox

by
posted on December 30, 2013
muskox.jpg

Photo Courtesy of USFWS

Imagine this: You’re one of the first human arrivals to the North American continent, crossing the Siberian land bridge 15,000 years ago. The land is rife with megafauna—large mammals like dire wolves, giant ground sloths weighing up to five tons, saber-toothed cats, even camels. Just a few thousand years later, almost all of those species were gone. One survivor of the “Pleistocene extinction” was the humble muskox.

Named for the strong odor that males of the species emit to attract females, the muskox is actually more closely related to sheep and goats than to true oxen. Its incredibly thick, shaggy coat led the Inuit to call it “umingmak,” which translates as “skin like a beard.” This soft, long wool keeps the muskox warm in its native habitat, the Arctic areas of North America. Its saucer-sized hooves help it move over soft tundra in the summer, and help it dig hard frozen tundra in the winter. Both males and females have long, curved horns, although males’ are larger. Mature males stand about five feet at the shoulder while females average about four.

One factor that may have helped the muskox survive is its conservative and cooperative nature. Muskox only breed when they have enough to eat, but they are extremely protective of the calves they do have. When approached by a predator, adult muskoxen form a shoulder-to-shoulder circle around the calves. The Arctic wolf is the most likely threat, although muskoxen are occasionally prey to polar and grizzly bears.

These cold-loving animals are almost exclusively found north of the Arctic circle. Currently, there are native populations in Canada, Alaska and Greenland, with reintroduced populations in Russia and Scandinavia. Carefully managed hunting seasons have helped keep these populations healthy, although the price of a tag makes this a “dream hunt” for most people.

FAST FACTS:
• Muskox fur is called “qiviut,” and is prized for its softness and insulation. Muskox yarn can fetch as much as $80 an ounce.
• Although you can’t see them, muskox actually do have tails—but they’re only about four inches long, so they’re hidden under all that fur.
• Despite where they live, muskox aren’t very good at digging through heavy snow, so their winters are spent where the snow is shallow.

Latest

Guess Realtree Fashion Lede
Guess Realtree Fashion Lede

Hunting Lifestyle Goes Mainstream with Realtree X GUESS Fashion Collab

Yes, we mean that GUESS—the fashion outfit best known for pricey denim and edgy advertising.

First Impressions: Savage 110 Trail Hunter Lite

Created to offer a lightweight, comfortable and reliable rifle that won't give up until you do. 

Throwback Thursday: The Legendary Kit Carson

Christopher “Kit” Carson was a man of many talents ...

SCTP Sporting Clays & Five-Stand Event Registration Opens

Proceeds from both events benefit SSSF’s Scholarship Program as well as participating Ronald McDonald House Charities Chapters through the Kids & Clays Foundation.

Video Review: Smith & Wesson M&P 10mm M2.0 Pistol

The 10mm chambering is an oft-overlooked defensive powerhouse, perfected in the latest iteration of S&W's venerable M&P line.

The Doctor is In! 6 Top Gun-Safety Mistakes to Avoid

As a doctor, hunter and lifelong gun owner, Dr. Dvorchak has collected six simple ways to help stay safe.

Interests



Get the best of NRA Family delivered to your inbox.