When we travel by truck for a vacation, it gets really easy to end up just driving and looking out the window without stopping.
To prevent that, I picked a few places I wanted to stop. One of them was at the Musk Ox Farm near Palmer, Alaska, on the way to Anchorage.
I’ve seen Musk Ox at our Yukon Wildlife Preserve outside Whitehorse. They are pretty wild and aloof though, so they are rarely near a fence to get a close look.
That is not the case at the Musk Ox Farm! They are aiming to domesticate these Musk Ox. Why you wonder? Well it turns out their big hairy coat makes an incredible wool product!
Musk Ox’s undercoat is a soft down like wool called Qiviut. It is 8 times warmer than sheep wool, is non-allergenic, and isn’t itchy like wool can be.
Instead of shaving the musk ox, they take them in the barn 3 to 4 times a year and comb them!
We took a walking tour of the pastures, where they have dozens of musk ox, organized into large fields of males, females, mothers with babies, senior citizens, and a pen of troublemakers!
There were two babies born this year! Here’s one of them, already shedding its coat! This year the babies were named Muenster and Gouda!
Musk ox live in Arctic areas, usually well away from people. They live in herds and protect each other from predators. The males will violently smash foreheads during their mating season.
We were instructed to stay in a group, so we would look more dominant, and to never stick anything through the fence. Musk ox can be aggressive and defensive. We were told to not even kneel down for a photo, because we’d look like a predator and they could charge. Therefore, I have many photos of fence wire in front of the cute musk ox!
You could get a sense of them being on-guard at times. They were all laying around, some panting. It was a hot day. They had dull eyes and seemed passive, like above. But then at times, like when I moved my camera in their direction near the fence, their eyes suddenly widened and lit up, like this next one, which kept me well away from the fence, ha!
Here is our tour guide Cannon showing us a skull, which can weigh up to 30 pounds with the horns! The musk ox primarily has side teeth for chewing away at grass, like a cow. Also like a cow, they have 4 stomachs!
The adult musk ox weigh 400 to 900 pounds. They can run up to 60 km per hour too! Look out!
Every Musk Ox at the farm has a name and an ear tag with a corresponding number. I asked our tour guide if he could tell them apart. He said some of them are very distinctive, and he can. For others, he gets used to the number on their tag and uses that to recognize them.
Many of them have the tips cut off their horns to prevent injury to the other ones.
This next one was called ‘Little Man’ if I remember correctly. He’s a senior citizen. He walked over to us near the fence, and then stepped into his water trough and just stood there! It was a hot day, I think he liked the coolness on his feet.
They are in the process of preserving an old barn on the property that was one of the original land grant barns when the US government would provide people with a barn and property if they’d relocate. The barns can be recognized by their cut out star, which you can just see through the barn.
They plan to use this barn for coordinating their tours, and to house their museum and gift shop.
I would highly recommend a visit to this Musk Ox Farm! They also have an Instragram account if you want to see cute pictures of Musk Ox! https://www.instagram.com/muskoxfarm/