The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Day Two of Twelve Days of Arctic Animals: Muskoxen


Scientific Name: Ovibos moschatus.

The prefix “ovi” is Latin for sheep, “bos” is latin for ox. “Moschatus” is New Latin for musky and refers to the preorbital glands that were thought to secrete a musky odor. Muskoxen actually have no musky smell. During the breeding season, the urine the males spray on themselves and the ground is rather pungent, but Muskoxen lack a true musk gland. Although bison-like in appearance, Muskoxen are actually related to goats and sheep, and are thought to be most closely related to the Asian takin (Budorcas taxicolor).

Where Muskoxen Live:

Muskoxen live in the Arctic tundra and are a circumpolar species native to Canada, Greenland and, up until the late 1800’s, Alaska. They were reintroduced to Alaska from animals captured in Greenland in the 1930’s. Muskoxen have also been introduced into Russia, Svalbard, Norway, and Siberia. Some herds have also found their own way from Norway into Sweden. There is worldwide population of approximately 60,000 Muskoxen and are without major conservation threats at this time.

Muskox Range Map (Compiled from Shackleton, 1997)  Obtained at

Muskox Range Map (Compiled from Shackleton, 1997)
Obtained at

What Muskoxen Eat:

Muskoxen graze on grasses, sedges, flowering plants and leaves of shrubs. Muskoxen migrate from sheltered, moist lowlands in the summer to higher, barren plateaus in winter, in a migration pattern that is opposite from most Arctic animals. The exposed plateaus do not accumulate snow due to the high winds, which makes food easier to find.

How Long Muskoxen Live:

Muskoxen live up to 20 years, with an average lifespan in the wild of 14 years.

Why Muskoxen are Awesome:

Conflicts between males (bulls) occur throughout the year, with the frequency becoming higher during breeding season. Two rivals rush towards each other at up to 30 mph, clashing their horns together and doing so up to 20 times in an hour. These fights, which include lion-like roars, determine dominance and mating rights with females (cows). The loser remains part of the herd. Here’s a video clip of bull clashes

Why We Care about Muskoxen:

Research is performed with a captive herd of approximately 40 Muskoxen at the Large Animal Research Station at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Studies on nutrition and arctic adaptations in Muskoxen can be applied to wildlife conservation and biology for multiple animal species.

What are your thoughts about Muskoxen?  Questions?

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This entry was posted on December 15, 2013 by in Arctic Animals, Mammals, Uncategorized.
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