Muskox Get Shaggy

Muskox Get Shaggy

Muskox Get Shaggy

2 minute read – 
In late Spring, Muskox start to look pretty shaggy and not very impressive.  They look like they could use a good combing – why is that?

To best answer the question…..let’s first talk a bit about muskox.

Muskox live on the tundra of the high arctic. This is a harsh environment and to protect themselves from cold temperatures, blowing snow and a lack of protection like hills, mountains….or even trees….the muskox has evolved some physical adaptations to not only survive, but to thrive.

The focus of this article and video is one of those adaptations:  their hair coat.

In this photo, guard hairs are clearly a coarser, darker brown hair.  Qiviut appears fleecier, greyish or lighter brown in colour and appears in straggly patches from the shoulder, across the back and over the hip.

Muskox sport long guard hairs that reach all the way down to their hooves. This acts as “almost” a weather proofing – it keeps the wind, snow and ice out.

Qiviut is the underlayer hair – a soft, warm, fleecy undercoat. The two layers – guard hairs and qiviut, work together to keep the muskox warm and dry through the long arctic winters, which can last up to 8 months! 

During spring, the muskox shed their qiviut, otherwise they run the risk of overheating.  The qiviut comes off in long dense layers – making them appear straggly and patchy. The qiviut gets caught in the environment on rocks and bushes. Other animals like ground squirrels and birds will gather it up to line their nests.
Humans are another animal who will gather qiviut – but we do so in order to knit with this very soft, fine and warm fibre. While we can knit with 100% qiviut, it is sometimes blended with other fibres, such as sheep’s wool.

Adaptations like qiviut and guard hair must be working, because muskox has survived since the last ice age. Now, that’s impressive.

Photo and video credit L. Caskenette

Lindsay Caskenette & Julie Kerr

Lindsay Caskenette & Julie Kerr

Visitor Services Manager and Visitor Services Coordinator

Lindsay and Julie love to share the Preserve the same way they explore life – full on and full of adventure!  They have a collective love of:  Animals....Lindsay dogs, Julie foxes; Adventure.... Lindsay dog mushing, Julie extreme camping;  both take on animal personas during story telling.  Together they support the Preserve with a strong Visitor Services presence and often, they even get work done (this happens most often when the other one is out of the office).   


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