musk ox

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musk ox,

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 cattlecattle,
name for the ruminant mammals of the genus Bos, and particularly those of the domesticated species, Bos taurus and B. indica. The term oxen, broadly used, refers also to closely related animals, such as the buffalo and the bison.
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), 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 ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Bovidae.

Musk Ox


(Ovibos moschatus), an artiodactyl of the family Bovidae. The height at the shoulder is about 1.1m, and the body is up to 2.5 m long and weighs up to 300 kg. The musk ox is a massive, short-legged animal, covered with a long, dense, black-brown coat. The neck is short and thick, and the tail is hidden by hair. Both males and females have horns, which are very thick at the base and curved. The musk ox is distributed in Greenland and on islands of the Canadian Archipelago. The species was recently imported into some arctic islands (Spitzbergen, Nunivak, Nelson) and Alaska. In the Pleistocene and, to a lesser degree, in the Holocene, the musk ox was widely distributed in Eurasia and North America. It lives in herds of as many as 20 to 30 animals and feeds on lichens, mosses, and grass. The species mates in August, and, after nine months, a single calf is born. The musk ox is rare, numbering only about 25,000 individuals. The species is under strict protection.


Zhizn’zhivotnykh, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.

musk ox

a large bovid mammal, Ovibos moschatus, which has a dark shaggy coat, short legs, and widely spaced downward-curving horns and emits a musky smell: now confined to the tundras of Canada and Greenland
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