Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals
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Ovibos moschatus


Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae

Image of Ovibos moschatus
Ovibos moschatus - female, left; male, right
Click to enlarge. (102 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

Muskoxen are well adapted to their cold Arctic habitat, with short, stocky bodies and a thick coat of ground-length hair, enhanced in the winter by woolly underhairs for added insulation. They feed on sedges, grasses, and willows. Like other mammals in the family Bovidae, they are ruminants: they gulp down a large quantify of food, then regurgitate and re-chew it at leisure. This behavior - chewing their cud - lets them break down the vegetation and digest it better. It also lets them forage quickly, which may be a protection from predators. Females and young Muskoxen live in mixed-sex groups year-round. Some bulls live alone in the summer, but are likely to join all-male or mixed-sex groups in winter. Bulls breed with several females. Competition involves clashing with horns and their heavily shielded heads. Muskoxen also use their horns in a group defense strategy against their principle predators, wolves and brown bears: they back into a circle or cluster, with head and horns facing outward. Individual animals dart out to charge at the intruder.

Also known as:

Sexual Dimorphism:
Males are larger than females.

Range: 2.1-2.6 m males; 1.9-2.4 m females

Range: 186-410 kg males; 160-191 kg females


Zimmermann, E.A.W., 1780.  Geographische Geschichte des Menschen, und der allgemein verbreiteten vierfüssigen Thiere. Zweiter Band. Enthält ein vollständiges Verzeichniss aller bekannten Quadrupeden,  Weygandschen Buchhandlung, Leipzig, (2nd volume) pp. 86-88.


Mammal Species of the World

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account

Distribution of Ovibos moschatus

Image of Ovibos moschatus
Click to enlarge. (64kb)