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Muskox Range Map
Muskox Range Map
Latin Name Ovibos moschatus
Conservation Status Least Concern
Location N North America & Greenland
Colour Brown
Length 1.9 - 2.3 m (6.25 - 7.5 ft)
Tail 9 - 10 cm (3.5 - 4 inches)
Weight 200 - 410 Kgs (440 - 900 lbs)
Life Expectancy 20 - 24 Yrs

Main Characteristics

Muskoxen are extremely well adapted to surviving a very harsh Arctic environment. They have a body length between 1.9 and 2.3 m (6.25 - 7.5 ft), a tail length between 9 and 10 cms (3.5 - 4 inches) and they weigh between 200 and 410 Kgs (440 - 900 lbs).

They have an insulated woolly undercoat and long, thick, brown hair that almost reaches the ground. They have a stocky build, a pronounced shoulder hump and both sexes have long, sharp, curved horns.

Male Muskoxen are much larger and stockier than females, with their horns forming a large horn boss on the forehead where they meet.

To prove dominance males have confrontations known as ruts. During these ruts males emit a lion-like roar and run towards each other, crashing their heads together.

The name Muskox is derived from the strong odour emitted by males.


Muskox live on the tundras of Northern and Western Alaska, Arctic Canada, Greenland and the Arctic regions of Europe.

They are social animals that live in herds of approximately 10 - 20 individuals. The herds consist of both males, females and their young. During the breeding season however, males become very aggressive and non-breeding males will be driven from their herd and they form smaller herds consisting of 3 - 10 individuals.


The diet of a muskox consists of grasses, reeds, willows and sedges.


Mating occurs in August or September and after a gestation period of 34 weeks, one calf is born in April or May. Sometimes twins can occur but these are more rare. The young nurse for approximately 1 year but during that time they also graze on grasses.

Male Muskox reach sexual maturity at 5 years of age and females at 2 years of age.

During the breeding season male Muskox become very aggressive. The dominant male will keep other males away from his harem of females and dominance is established by headbutting confrontations. These confrontations involve the Muskox charging at each other at approximately 50 Km/hr (31 mph) and crashing their heads together with a tremendous impact.


Known predators of Muskox are wolves, polar bears and brown bears. When Muskox are under threat the adult males and females gather in a circle facing outwards. The youngsters of the herd are protected in the middle. Larger herd members may break free from the circle and charge at their predators to intimidate them and scare them away.


There are two known subspecies of Muskox and these are:

Greenland Muskox
(Ovibos moschatus wardi)
They are also known as the White-Faced Muskox and they are found in Greenland and the Canadian high Arctic.

Barren Ground Muskox
(Ovibos moschatus moschatus)
They are found on the Canadian mainland.

Interesting Facts

The closest relative of the Muskox is the takin that lives in the Himalayas.

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