Muskox Farm Tour
Wild Muskox were in danger of extinction in Alaska when the Muskox Farm was created in the 1950’s. This spacious farm in Palmer, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, is home to over 80 of these unique, Nordic creatures. Each animal is named, has it’s own personality, and is a joy to observe. After walking around the farm and seeing Muskox of all ages, visitors can enjoy the gift shop full of crafts made with harvested Muskox hair (qiviut).
Muskox Description and History
The muskox (Ovibos moschatus) is a stocky, long-haired animal with a slight shoulder hump and a very short tail. Inupiaq-speaking Eskimos call itomingmak, meaning “the animal with skin like a beard,” a reference to the long guard hair that hangs nearly to the ground. Both male and female muskoxen have horns, but the horns of bulls are larger and heavier than those of cows. The horns of bulls develop large bases which nearly span the entire forehead. The coat consists of a long, coarse, outer layer, and a short, fine underhair. Coloration of the Greenland muskox, the race found in Alaska, is generally dark brown with creamy-colored hair on the “saddle,” forehead, and legs. Muskoxen have cloven hooves, all four of which are the same size.
Mature bulls are about 5 feet high at the shoulder and weigh 600-800 pounds. Cows are smaller, averaging approximately 4 feet in height and weighing 400-500 pounds.
At the close of the last ice age, muskoxen were found across northern Europe, Asia, Greenland and North America, including Alaska. By the mid-1800s, muskox had disappeared from Europe and Asia. By the 1920s, muskox had also disappeared from Alaska, with the only remaining animals being found in east Greenland and Arctic Canada. International concern over impending extinction of this animal led to an effort to restore a population in Alaska.
In 1930, 34 muskox were captured in East Greenland and brought to Fairbanks. This group was then transferred to Nunivak Island, a large island in the Bering Sea. The muskoxen thrived there and, by 1968, the herd had grown to 750 animals. Muskox from the Nunivak herd were later translocated to establish new herds on the Seward Peninsula, on Cape Thompson and Nelson Islands, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and on Wrangel Island and the Taimyr Peninsula in Russia. By 2000, almost 4,000 muskoxen existed in Alaska. In recent years, the herds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and adjoining areas have declined.
~ Alaska Department of Fish and Game