Keep a distance if you see a musk ox – for their safety as well as your own. Photo: Naturcentrum AB.Keep a distance if you see a musk ox – for their safety as well as your own. Photo: Naturcentrum AB.

Musk oxen – ice age beasts on

the border

Musk oxen thrived in Scandinavia during the ice age. Some 30 000 years ago, large herds of musk oxen wandered around here together with mammoths and woolly rhinoceros.

The thickest hairs in their coat are up to 70 centimetres long, and temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius are no problem. On the other hand, they are very sensitive to heat, and when the climate became warmer and the inland ice melted the musk oxen were wiped out. In 1947, a few animals were introduced from Greenland to Dovrefjell in Norway, where there are now around 200 musk oxen.

Musk oxen in Gränslandet

In 1971, five musk oxen from Dovrefjell wandered away. They settled north of Rogen, in the borderland between Norway and Sweden. The herd grew and reached a peak of 30 animals in the mid 1980s. But since then their numbers have dwindled, mainly through inbreeding. The Swedish-Norwegian musk oxen are now reduced to seven. They mostly spend the winter in Sweden and summer in Norway.

If you meet a musk ox...

Stay calm and keep a distance. This is for their safety as well as your own! Grazing is poor in the mountains and they often live on the hunger line. If they are frightened and run away, they lose valuable energy. In the worst case, a pregnant cow may lose her calf. Musk oxen are unpredictable and can charge if they feel threatened.

Under Swedish law...

... there is a “mobile” protection area 100 metres around musk oxen. In Norway you have to keep a safe/non-threatening distance of 200 metres.

 
Gränslandet » Among wolverines and wolf lichen » Musk oxen – ice age beasts on the border