Musk-oxen are stocky, shaggy, long-haired mammals of the extreme northern latitudes. They remain in the open througout Alaska's long winters. Their name is misleading, for they have no real musk (chemically produced by a gland), and more closely relate to sheep and goats than to cows. They (both sexes) have horns that droop down from their forehead and curve back at the tips. Their soft underhair is called qiviut and grows next to the skin, protected by long guard hairs. It is shed naturally every spring.

There is a Musk Oxen Development Corporation, based out of Fairbanks, AK, that is in charge of maintaining the five herds presently at large in Alaska. The Corporation gathers qiviut from the Palmer, AK farm herd, and sells it to the Oomingmak cooperative, a group that spins the hair into yarn (in Rhode Island!), and sends it back to Alaska for village knitters, where it is made into clothing.

Adult males are 500-900 lbs.
Adult females are 300-700 lbs.

When they are threatened by wolves or other predators, musk oxen form circles or lines with their young in the middle. These defensive measures have never protected them from their greatest threat... Man and his Gun.

Tragically, Musk Oxen were eliminated from Alaska in about 1864, when hunters shot and killed the last herd of 13. The species was reintroduced to the territory in the 1930s when 34 Musk Oxen were purchased from Greenland and brought to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In 1935-36, the 31 remaining Musk Oxen at the university were shipped to Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea, where the herd eventually thrived. Animals from the Nunivak herd have been transplanted to areas along Alaska's western and northern coasts; at least five wild herds, approximately 3000 Musk Oxen, exist in Alaska at present.

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