The Musk Ox, which is known to the Alaskan natives as a Oomingmak, meaning animal with a beard, are extremely large animals, standing 3-5 feet at the shoulder and weighing in at between500 and 900 pounds.
They have shaggy fur which covers the entire body, including the udders on the female.
Their horns are wide and flat and very close to their skulls with the distance between the horn tips very broad.
In fact the record horn span was nearly 30 inches.
Their coat and hooves keep them very warm in the frigid arctic weather and they can survive easily in weather of 70 below zero. The calves too can withstand extreme temperatures.
A Musk ox has fur which is build in two layers. The underfur is very fluffy and soft, and insulates the animal while the heavy out coat is stiff and hard to keep the heat inside where it benefits the animal.
Young calves have been recorded to survive temperatures of minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit even when they were alone.
Musk ox live near a river whenever possible.. Even though they live on the tundra, if there is water nearby they will attempt to stay close to it. This is because they love willow, which is their favorite food and it grows near the water.
Musk Ox will fight between themselves during breeding season. A male may have many cows with which he mates..
A single calf is born to the mother musk ox every other year.
They nurse from the mother for several months, and begin to nibble vegetation at about 3 months. Older Bulls will ordinarily be the boss of the herd and a great many animals will live together for protection.
One of their primary enemies is the grizzley bear. When a bear attacks the herd will form a circle, with their faces outward. The calves and young musk ox are placed to the inside of the circle to keep them safe from the attack.
This circle is nearly impossible to penetrate to get to the calves inside.
Occassionally one of the larger bulls will attempt to leave the circle to fight the attacker. When he does so, the remaining animals will close the circle immediately so that whatever is inside will be protected.
Musk Ox in Alaska were completely wiped out in the later part of the 1800’s, when men began to hunt them with guns. After they were killed off the US Wildlife Service bought 35 of the animals from Greenland and returned them to the US coast of Alaska.
By mid 1980’s there were over 400 animals which had split off into three herds, and another herd that had been culled from the original and moved to ANWR.
This is one animal who has been able to make a comeback after man nearly eradicated it.
Find out more about the Musk Ox over at Wikipedia »