A Muskox taxidermy mount may be one of the most interesting pieces in a collection of hunting trophies.
Muskox are native to the Arctic tundra regions of Canada, Greenland, Alaska, Russia Norway and Siberia. Some herds have also found their own way into Sweden from Norway. The muskox is one of only a few large mammals able to survive year round in the frozen arctic environment. The muskox is a member of the bovine family that include the American bison, mountain goats and sheep. There are 2 subspecies of muskox, the barren ground and white-faced muskox, referred to as the Greenland muskox. The distinction between the two is based mostly on location, the Greenland has a tendency to be slightly small.
Muskox are well adapted to the harsh conditions in the arctic. They have stout, barrel shaped bodies with short, stocky legs to conserve heat and large, rounded hooves to allow the animal to move through the snow and traverse the rocky terrain. A large bull may reach 900 pounds and stand 5 feet at the shoulder. The entire animal is covered with coarse, long, shaggy hair that can sometimes reach the ground on older animals. The hair protects against wind, rain and also biting insects. A dense, insulating winter coat, known as qiviut, is grown in the fall and shed in spring. Qiviut is the lightest and warmest wool in the world and protects the muskox from the high winds and frigid cold of the Arctic. Their coat varies in color from a dark brown to black, with a lighter patch of hair running down the back. The legs and face are a lighter brown and mature animals will have a large mane of wool that sits on the shoulders.
Muskox have light colored horns with rounded bases on the forehead which curve down and outward, and then upward to sharp, pointed tips. Both sexes have horns, but the bulls are much heavier and develop an extra boss at the top of the skull that protects it during head butting ritual in the mating season. Muskox bulls use their horns to establish dominates over other males for breeding rights and also to fight off predators.
Muskox travel in herds of up to 40 animals and are sometimes led by a single cow. When threatened by predators they will form a tight circle with their sharp horns facing outward and the young protected in the middle. They use this group defense to guard against wolves, bear and other predators.
Muskox mainly feed on lichens, grasses and willow shoots. Since green plants are available for only a few weeks during the arctic summer, in winter they use their hooves to find dried plants under the snow.
The mating season begins in late summer and early fall. Bulls will face off with one another to compete for dominance with ritualized head-butting. Facing each other at up to 100 yards apart, the bulls charge each other and crash their horns together. This can be repeated many times until one backs down. Once dominance is established, the herd bull will keep the females guarded from the other males until the breeding season is over. Calves are born the following spring.