Musk Ox

Musk Ox Facts
Size Up to 4.9 ft (150 cm) (shoulder height)
Speed Unknown
Weight Up to 881 lb (400 kg)
Lifespan 10 - 18 years
Food Grass, willows, berries
Predators Wolves, bears, polar bears
Habitat Canada, Greenland, Alaska
Order Even-toed ungulates
Family Bovids
Scientific name Ovibos moschatus
Characteristics Thick, shaggy coat

Musk Ox are large, heavy ungulates that live in Canada, Greenland and Alaska. Of all mammals, they have the longest coat.

This Ox is No Ox

Because of their appearance, musk oxen were thought to be a mix of bovines and sheep for a long time. But the shaggy quadruped is closely related to goats and belongs to the group of the goat-antelopes (the term is a bit misleading, because they have nothing to do with true antelopes).

Musk Ox Musk Ox - Photo: Peter Krejzl/Shutterstock

What a Thick Coat (Well, two Coats in Fact)!

It is quite astonishing that you even can perceive the musk ox in its thick coat. It covers its entire body apart from its hoofs, horns, lips and nostrils.

And there is not only one coat but two, as it is really quite cold at -68.8 degrees Fahrenheit (-56 degrees Celsius). The coarse and rigid topcoat is called guard hair and up to 24.4 inch (62 cm) long.

But what really keeps the musk-ox warm and cozy is his 3.1 - 3.9 inch (8 - 10 cm) thick undercoat. It is very, very soft (even softer than cashmere!) and eight times as warm as sheep’s wool.

Musk Ox Musk Ox - Photo: Zoltan Katona/Shutterstock

Its Wool Also Keeps Other Animals Warm.

Musk oxen are permanently losing parts of their “underwear“ – particularly during the summer, when they get rid of their entire underfur. Little songbirds such as snow buntings or Lapland buntings collect the wool to pad out their nests. Musk oxen are very kind animals.

Musk Ox Musk Ox - Photo: Peter Krejzl/Shutterstock

Musk Ox vs. Brown Bear

It’s getting serious when a brown bear appears on the scene. Who will survive? Musk oxen trudge through their small grounds of about 0.77 square miles (2 km2) in little herds of 5 to 15 animals.

If an animal of prey approaches the group, the adult oxen form a circle and thus protect the babies within. Sometimes a musk ox even leaves the circle (which is closed again very quickly by the others) to boldly attack the enemy.

The musk ox uses its head like a battering ram to attack the animal of prey. It picks up smaller animals of prey such as wolves with its horns and throws them into the air so that they break their bones when falling down on the ground.

When will there be Trouble?

If the musk ox lowers its head and presses its nose against its knee, it is getting dangerous. This is the warning signal before an attack. By the way: During this action, a gland on the nose secretes the famous sweet musk odor.

Musk Ox Musk Ox - Photo: dotweb/Shutterstock


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