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Muskox Ovibos moschatus


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credit: Dixi /CCSA

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Family: Bovidae, Cattle, Goats, and Sheep view all from this family

Description A stocky, shaggy bovid of the Arctic. The long, brown winter hairs extend nearly to the ground, covering fine, cashmere-like underhairs. Stockings and saddle are creamy white. Male is larger (some reach 650kg in captivity) and has larger horns that merge into a massive boss on the forehead. Female horns are shorter, more slender, and more curved.

Dimensions 2.1-2.6m, 7-12cm, 186-410kg; / 1.9-2.4m, 6-12cm, 160-191kg

Breeding Females give birth to a single calf (rarely twins) in April-May after a 34-week gestation period.

Habitat Alpine & subalpine habitats, Meadows & fields, Beaches, shorelines & estuaries

Range Alaska

Discussion Feeds on sedges, grasses, and willows, and distribution is limited by snow depth. Typically lives in mixed-sex groups, although some males are solitary in summer. Sedentary groups move little, but adult males move more than females. When confronted by would-be predators, adults circle around calves, confronting the enemy with a ring of pointy horns. Herds may also stampede when disturbed. Nearly extinct at the end of the nineteenth century, now protected, reestablished in Alaska, and recovering in Canada, where most of the population lives on Arctic islands. Males defend harems during the August-September breeding season through a variety of displays, vocalizations, and scent-marking. The culmination is an all-out charge with males running together at 50km per hour and banging heads with the huge horn bosses taking the brunt of the blow. Uses Arctic tundra, preferring grassy areas with low precipitation in the short, cool summer and windswept areas with exposed vegetation in the long, cold winter.