Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: musk ox from Philip's Encyclopedia

Large, wild, shaggy ruminant, related to oxen and goats, native to N Canada and Greenland. Its brown fur reaches almost to the ground, and its down-pointing, recurved horns form a helmet over the forehead. When threatened, the herd forms a defensive circle round the calves. Length: to 2.3m (7.5ft); weight: to 410kg (903lb). Family Bovidae; species Ovibos moschatus. See also ox

Summary Article: musk ox
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

hoofed ruminant mammal, Ovibos moschatus, found in arctic North America and Greenland. The northernmost member of the cattle family (though it is not closely related to true cattle), the musk ox grazes on the stunted vegetation of the tundra. It was exterminated in Alaska about the middle of the 19th cent. but was later restored there on Nunivak island. Its stoutly built body, about 4 ft (120 cm) at the shoulder in the male, is covered by a long, shaggy, brown to black coat, which conceals the short tail and the upper part of the short legs. The male has a musky odor during the mating season. The horns are broad and flattened and nearly meet across the forehead at the base. They extend out from the sides of the head, curving downward and then upward in a hook. The hooves are very large and widely splayed, an adaptation to walking on snow. Musk oxen live in herds of 10 to 20 individuals in summer and up to 100 in winter. When in danger the herd forms a circle, horns pointing outward, with the young in the center. The chief enemy of the musk ox, besides Native Americans and Eskimos who hunt it for flesh and fur, is the wolf. The musk ox is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article musk ox
The Penguin English Dictionary

noun a thickset shaggy-coated wild ox of Greenland and northern N America that gives off a strong musky odour: Ovibos moschatus . ...

Full text Article MUSKOX
Encyclopedia of the Arctic

Probably more than any other species, the muskox ( Ovibos moschatus , or umingmak in Inuktitut) epitomizes the fauna of the Arctic tundra. An...

See more from Credo