Saturday, October 4, 2008

Musk Ox

The musk-ox, Ovibus moschatus, in the family Bovidae, live on open tundra to well vegetated terrain in northern Canada and Greenland and has been introduced into Alaska. It is short legged but massively built, reaching 1.5 m (5 ft) high at the shoulder and more than 400 kg (900 lb) in weight. The large head bears broad, down curving horns. Musk oxen are protected from the cold by an ankle length dark brown outer coat covering a light brown, soft, dense undercoat. The coat’s musky odor gives the musk-ox its name. Musk oxen live in herds of 20 to 100. When under attack they form a circle, horn outward, with the young on the inside.

The muskox is a stocky, long-haired animal with a slight shoulder hump and a very short tail. Both sexes have horns, but the horns of bulls are larger and heavier than those of cows. The horns of bulls develop large bases which nearly span the entire forehead. The pelage consists of a long, coarse, outer layer and a short, fine underhair. Coloration of the Greenland muskox, the race found in Alaska, is generally dark brown with creamy-colored hair on the “saddle,” forehead, and legs. Muskoxen have cloven hooves, all four of which are the same size.

The male musk ox weight more than the female and has longer horns. The extremely long outer coat and short, dense inner coat provide the musk ox with excellent insulation against the cold temperatures of the far north.

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