Species / International Ovis

Greenland Muskox

Ovibos moschatus wardi

Location

Naturally distributed throughout the Canadian arctic islands (except King William Island, whose muskoxen we treat as barren ground, and Baffin Island, which has no muskoxen), and on the northern and eastern coasts of Greenland. The natural distribution is essentially unchanged in modern times.

Behavior

Muskoxen are gregarious, usually in herds of 10 to 20, but sometimes 100 or more. Males fight fiercely for possession of the females during the rut, repeatedly charging head-on with their horns smashing together. The rut is July-September, with one calf (rarely twins) born April-June and weaned after one year. Life expectancy is estimated at 15 years, although individuals have been known to live much longer in the wild. The muskox is mainly a grazer in summer and a browser in winter. Eyesight and hearing are believed to be acute. The muskox usually moves slowly and stolidly, but is actually swift and agile if necessary, able to sprint at least 25 mph and run for a considerable distance at 15-20 mph. It easily climbs steep slopes and cliffs and is a good swimmer. Its principal enemy is the wolf. Muskoxen are brave, capable fighters that have learned to deal with wolf packs by forming a tight circle or a phalanx.

Super Ten®/Super Slam®: Populations are stable and increasing, with 85,000 to 95,000 in Canada, of which 60,000 are on Banks and Victoria Islands. Two subspecies are usually recognized, barren ground muskox and Greenland muskox. For the Super Ten®/Super Slam®, either can be counted. Information found here contains excerpts from the on-line and printed version of Safari Club International (SCI) Record Book of Trophy Animals and is used by permission. Visit www.scirecordbook.org.

Description

The name “muskox” refers to the strong, musky odor emitted from the male’s facial glands during the rut. Muskoxen are believed to have migrated to North America over the Bering land bridge during the Glacial Age. Overall the muskox can weigh up to 750 pounds or more. Females are about 30 percent smaller than males. The largest specimens have been recorded from the Canadian mainland; those from the high arctic and Greenland are much smaller. The muskox is relatively unchanged from prehistoric times. Its long, shaggy coat equips it superbly for life in the arctic. Its body hair is the longest of any animal, with individual guard hairs exceeding 24 inches in length. The dense inner coat of fine wool protects it from the cold and frost, while the outer coat, reaching past the knees, sheds snow and rain. The build is stocky, with slightly humped shoulders, short neck and legs and very large hoofs. The head is carried low. General coloration is dark brown, with the saddle and lower legs pale. Males have massive horns, forming bosses that nearly meet on top of the head, then curve down, around and up to sharp points. Females have similar horns, although they are much less massive.

The Greenland Muskox, sometimes called white-faced muskox, is smaller in body and horns than the Barren Ground muskox, and tends to have a whiter face, saddle, and lower legs.

Remarks

Beginning in 1929, Greenland muskoxen have been introduced and transplanted to a number of locations including Alaska, western Greenland, Svalbard, Norway and Russia. Muskoxen from eastern Greenland were introduced in Fairbanks, Alaska (1930), and transplanted from Fairbanks to Nunivak Island, Alaska (1935, 1936). Subsequently, Greenland muskoxen from the Nunivak Island herd were relocated to Fairbanks (1964), and from there were introduced in Unalakleet, Alaska (1976). Greenland muskoxen from Nunivak Island were also introduced on Nelson Island (1967, 1968), the Seward Peninsula (1970), Cape Thompson (1970), and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (1969, 1970) in Alaska, and on the Taimyr Peninsula (1975) and Wrangel Island (1975) in Russia. Muskoxen from eastern Greenland have been introduced near Fort Chimo, Quebec (1967) and in western Greenland (1965, 1967), Svalbard (1929), mainland Norway (1947-1953)-from where some have moved into Sweden-and the Taimyr Peninsula in Russia (1973).

To the best of our knowledge, all introductions and transplants of muskoxen throughout the world have been of the Greenland subspecies, with no barren ground muskoxen having been transplanted anywhere.

In record-keeping, we are treating all populations of Greenland muskoxen as indigenous.

Source: Safari Club International (SCI).

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