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Musk Ox

Musk Ox

Shaggy-coated herds famed for their distinctive odor!

What you need to know about the Musk Ox

Our Expert Says… "The population in North-East Greenland is the easiest to approach, as there has been far less hunting of them here and they are less wary of humans. They are pretty much a prehistoric species, having been around since before the woolly mammoth roamed the Earth! Their warm undercoat is the finest fur of any mammal in the world and is remarkably insulative."

The Musk Ox (sometimes spelled Muskox) is a unique arctic animal. Despite its name, it’s actually more closely related to goats and sheep than it is to oxen or cattle. Two of its distinguishing features are its very thick, shaggy coat, and the strong musky odor the males emit during the mating season to attract females. They are primarily found in Canadian Arctic and northern Greenland.

Both males and females have long, curved horns on top of heads that are large for their body size. Adults can weigh up to 410kg (900lbs), with males being larger than females. The musk ox coat is brown, gray, and black, and its outermost hairs grow long enough to nearly reach the ground.

Musk ox live in small herds of 10 to 20 and move their habitats between the summer and winter months. In summer, they prefer wetter areas like river valleys. They graze here on grass, willow, moss, and lichens. In winter they prefer the higher ground, avoiding areas of deep snow, where it’s easier for them to dig for food.

The musk ox mating season usually occurs in June or July. However, if the winter has been severe, the females will not become fertile and no calves will be born the subsequent year.

Once under threat due to hunting, there are now thought to be around 100,000 musk oxen distributed across the arctic regions. Hunting bans put in place in the 20th century stabilized the population and helped to promote its recovery.

Musk Ox: Interesting facts

Qiviut refers to the soft underwool beneath the longer outer wool that very soft (softer than cashmere) and stronger and warmer than sheep's wool.

Musk Ox: Pictures from our travelers

Musk Ox

Spots where the Musk Ox can be observed

Our trips to spot the Musk Ox

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