The Giant Goat, the Musk Ox
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The Giant Goat, the Musk Ox

The Musk ox is a mammal that lives in Arctic climates and is part of the sub-family of the Bovidae species, the Caprinae family. The majority of the Musk ox population is native to the Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland, but there are some small Musk ox herds in northern Russia, Sweden, and Norway. The Musk ox gets its name from the strong musky odour males make to attract females.

The Musk ox is a powerful animal that resembles a mixture of bison and oxen. However, since the Musk ox comes from the Caprinae family, they are more closely related to goats and sheep than oxen or bovines. Musk ox are very large animals; adults Musk ox are 4 to 5 feet tall at the shoulders, are 4.4 to 8 feet long depending on their sex, and weigh from 400 to 800 pounds. Male Musk ox are heavier and larger than females are; males are about 6.6 to 8 feet long and weigh from 600 to 800 pounds, while females are around 4.4 to 6.6 feet long and weigh 400 to 600 pounds. However, unlike the majority of their bovine or Caprinae cousins, both males and females have horns. Due to their natural habitat being extremely cold, Musk ox have very thick hair that is a mixture of black, grey, and dark brown. The dark coloured coat of a Musk ox helps to attract the sun thus keeping it warmer. Musk ox can also come in pure white; however, this is rare. There are some pure white Musk ox in the Queen Maud Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Nunavut, Canada. Musk Ox are herd animals and live in herds that range in size from 6-11. An alpha male leads each herd and the rest of the herd are females, submissive males, and young Musk ox.

Musk ox are herbivores that migrate with the seasons. In the summertime, Musk ox live in swampy areas where highly nutritious grass and plants are located. Musk ox give birth during the summer months as the abundance of food gives the young the best chance of survival. When winter comes, the Musk ox herd moves northwards so that they are not caught in deep snow. During the winter months, the Musk ox herd eats anything they can find through the snow like grass, woody plants, Arctic willows, lichens, and even moss from trees.

Musk ox is one of the primary food sources for the apex predators of the Arctic: the Grizzly and Polar bears, Arctic wolves, and humans. As bears hibernate in the wintertime, they only hunt Musk Ox in the summer and most often hunt young Musk ox. As bears generally hunt solo, attacking Musk ox is very dangerous, as the entire herd will protect their young.

During the Arctic winters, the fight for survival is fierce and the Arctic wolves hunt the Musk ox mercilessly. The Arctic wolves are cunning and use the snow to camouflage themselves from the Musk ox. However, if the Musk ox sense the wolves before they attack, they will form a protective circle around the young and weak making it extremely difficult and dangerous for the wolves. Once the Musk ox form a protective circle, the wolves will often give up and go in search of easier prey; however, if the wolves are starving they will attack anyways. If the wolves are forced to attack the Musk ox after they have formed into a protective circle, there is almost always injuries on both sides; however, in the end the wolves will usually come away with a prize.

Humans also hunt Musk ox; they hunt them for their meat and for their thick soft coats. In the Arctic, Musk ox have been domesticated by some tribes and are raised like cattle for their fur, meat and milk. Despite being farmed, Arctic wolves still kill more Musk ox each year than people do.

The Musk ox is a beautiful and strong animal, the epitome of the survivor in the animal kingdom. Musk ox were endangered many years ago, but thanks to hunting laws and breeding sanctuaries, the Musk ox has a larger population now than they ever had before. Sadly, this is not true for their infamous foe, the Arctic wolf, who lingers near extinction.

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Comments (1)

Musk ox  is so bright animal. So much infrormation about it. Very obliged to author for sharing.