Muskox Get Shaggy

Jun 6, 2020 | Muskox | 4 comments

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).   

867-456-7400
 info@yukonwildlife.ca

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4 Comments

  1. Johnny Law

    What is the r rating on the Qiviut?
    These Muskox are a sight to behold.
    Thank you for the information.
    Much appreciation, super video and
    Informative talk.
    And to see muskox run, too amazing.

    Reply
    • Julie Kerr

      Thanks Johnny! We’re glad you enjoyed the muskox as much as we do. I’m not certain what the warmth rating of qiviut is, but I will say that even at -40 with the wind blowing, the muskox look warm and comfortable.

      Reply
  2. Suzanne

    Hi Lindsay and Julie- are there plans to recreate these wonderful musk ox and fur toques? I’d love to be on your list to purchase one. I’m researching the Yukon for a screenplay about the Klondike gold rush and would love to explore the region in person which includes the wildlife preserve. Thanks for the work you and your colleagues do!

    Reply
    • Julie Kerr

      Thank you so much for your well wishes Suzanne. We are glad you enjoyed this video on the impressive muskox. The qiviut hats were a fundraiser to support the Preserve near Christmas 2019; the qiviut was donated and the knitter donated her time. Hopefully we shall be able to do this again, but we don’t have a specific plan at this moment. They are first come first serve to purchase, when they are available.

      Reply

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