Muskox are one of the most remarkably adapted animals in the world and seeing one in the deep snow searching for food is one of the best Arctic wildlife experiences you can have. Our Muskox safaris in Norway give you the chance to get up close and personal with these astonishing creatures and observe firsthand how their adapatations allow them to survive in such harsh winter conditions. As a member of the subfamily Caprinae of the family Bovidae, the Muskox is more closely related to sheep and goats than to oxen; it is placed in its own genus, Ovibos
The Muskox gets its distinctive name for the very strong odur emitted by the males during the seasonal rut and its distinctive large hooves allow it to cross deep snow layers with minimum effort. Orgionally this is a species found only in the High Arctic, in countries like Greenland, Canada (Nunavut) and Siberia. However, there has been re-introductions of the Muskox in both Alaska, Canada (Yukon) and Norway – where a small sub population has spread to Sweden.
Most the male and female Muskox have large horns and an average height of between 4 to 5 metres. The larger males are much ‘longer’ in body and can reach over 6 metres in length. The sheer density and bulk of their winter coat gives the impression of a much larger animal than it actually is – as a comparision, male bisons in North America are twice the weight of a Muskox. During the summer, muskoxen live in wet areas, such as river valleys, moving to higher elevations in the winter to avoid deep snow. Muskoxen will eat grasses, arctic willows, woody plants, lichens, and mosses. The females control their own reproduction to maximise success by only conceiving if they have sufficient fat reserves to get themselves and their young through the harsh winters.
By far the most formidable predator for the Muskox is the Arctic Wolf, accounting for as much as 50% mortality rates in the species. There are some superb Muskox videos onlines which shows the defensive positioning of the herd against Arctic Wolves to protect the most vulnerable calves. Other predators include opportunistic hunters such as brown bears and polar bears, who are capable of snatching a young calf. An adult Muskox can reach speeds of close to 40km/h in full flight and of course can use its formidable horns as defensive weapons.
Sleep out with the Muskox in Norway under the Northern lights in this short 3-day tour from Oslo to Oppdal.