Met yesterday the King of Dovrefjell mountain, the majestic Musk Ox. We wandered high up in the mountains searching for the shaggy primeval animals. Our fantastic local guide Ståle Lien in the tour operator Dovreguiden, showed us the way to Musk Ox and told us amazing stories. For millions of years ago, the Musk Ox grazed side by side with the mammoth in Norwegian mountains.
Musk ox died out in Europe during the last ice age, but new herds have now made Dovrefjell their home after several releases between 1932 and 1953. Muskox as a species have changed little since the last ice age. A close relative of sheep and goats, muskox have cloven hoofs, a stocky build with a slight shoulder hump, and a very short tail.
It`s not a good idea trying to clap a musk ox, or trying to drag his tail. These huge beasts pay normally little attention to human visitors, but may attack if they feel threatened. To avoid unpleasant encounters with musk oxen, keep a distance of at least 200 metres. Be aware of that the musk oxen can run at 60 km/h = 60 metres in 3.6 seconds! If you stay at least 200 metres away you will be safe. Although musk oxen may seem both unafraid and tame when you see them, they have an unusual defense strategy. Unlike other animals that run away when are threatened, musk oxen do not try to escape if they sense danger. They attack!
Kingdom of the musk oxen – Dovrefjell mountain. On our tour we kept in mind that a musk ox pressed into to "a corner" can be a fearsome enemy, charging with its massive bulk and attempting to use its horns to deadly effect.
During the summer, they supplement their diet with flowers and grasses, often feeding near water. They attracts toward snow in the mountain where they can cool down. The previous years some of them have died due to overheating.
In winter, they use their hooves to dig through snow to graze on these plants. Their long shaggy hair is well adapted to the cold climate. The outer hairs, called guard hairs, cover a second, shorter undercoat that provides additional insulation in winter. This undercoat falls out when temperatures climb at winter's end.
At Dovrefjell, Dovre mountain, you find the only wild herd of Muskox in Norway. Currently it is estimated to be more than 200 animals in the area. When venturing into the area we approached them carefully and showed respect for the natural habitat for wildlife. In this way we went as as close we could without disturbing these amazing animals. Musk oxen pay little attention to human visitors, but may attack if they feel threatened. To avoid unpleasant encounters with musk oxen, keep a distance of at least 200 metres.
With its compact body and thick fur, these herbivores are well equipped to withstand harsh winters in the mountains. Dating back to about 187,000 to 129,000 years ago, muskoxen are known as the shaggy survivors of the Ice Age. Today muskoxen are found in northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska. Inupiaq speakers call them umiŋmak, meaning "the animal with skin like a beard" for their distinct fur that hangs down nearly to the ground.
It took us some circa 5-6 hours that day to wander around, and we walk around 20 kilometres, high and low, up mountaint top, down in valley, over stones and river, but it was well worth it in this beautiful landscape, and even meeting the Musk Ox, it was really worth it.
Stein Morten Lund, July 2021
Meet the King of Dovrefjell mountain, the majestic Musk Ox.
Dovreguiden - Guiding Company located in the Dovrefjell and Rondane area, Norway: musk ox, adventure and instruction.
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