Title:     "Alaska Aurora Musk Ox Male"

© Alaska Artist Dianne Roberson

       Northern Lights | Alaska                   

Stock #  DA 176

Medium:     Digital Art       |         Color Print

Size:  20" wide by 16" High     $ 45.00      Color Print on glossy paper                                                     

Size:  20" wide by 16" High     $ 175.00     Color Print on stretched canvas                                             

Size:  14" wide by 11" High     $ 35.00     Color Print on glossy paper                                                        


Musk Ox at the Musk Ox Farm near Palmer, Alaska.  Musk oxen have barrel-shaped bodies with short legs.  They are covered with fur except
for the small area between the nostrils and lips.  Both sexes have cream-colored horns with black tips that grow together at the center of the
head, drop down along side of head, then curve up to form sharp hooks.  These horns grow with age.  The tail is short (two to four inches)
and is entirely covered and hidden under the fur.  Fur can be divided into two types: Guard hair and qiviut (pronouced kiv-ee-ute). Guard hairs
are the continuously growing dark hairs that create the long, shaggy coat.  They can grow long enough to brush the ground on older musk
oxen.  This long hair is sometimes referred to as a skirt.  The back is marked by a lighter patch of brown or cream where the guard hairs are
shorter.  This is referred to as the saddle.  Older adults sometimes develop a large mane of fur that sits on the shoulders.  The guard hairs
act as protection against wind and precipitation, as well as insects.  Qiviut is the insulating winter coat. It begins growing in fall and is shed
through the guard hair in the spring.

Musk oxen are a social species and much of their behavior is based on the harem breeding system.  They live in herds as small as five
during the summer, and may join with other small groups to form herds as large as 60 individuals in the winter. These larger groups
provide protection from both the elements and predators. Other advantages include being easier to spot in a large group if one member
becomes lost.  Most herds average between 10 and 20 animals.  Musk oxen have many adaptations to the cold (such as short legs, thick
fur, and high body fat), that limit their mobility.  Though muskoxen can run as fast as 25 miles per hour, they can easily overheat.  For this
reason, the musk ox is generally slow moving and has very short migrations within the home range.  However, under certain conditions
(weather permitting), calves as well as adults will play by head butting and chasing, as well as grunting and bellows.  Sometimes males are
forced out of the herds during breeding season.  Among females, dominance is determined by age and size.  The larger, older females are
dominant over the younger, smaller females through pushing, shoving, and chasing.  Calves are generally lowest in the hierarchy, although
they determine dominance amongst themselves through chasing, mounting, and play. Generally, the higher the dominance status of the
musk ox, the better its food supply and breeding rights.  Home ranges in Alaska are reported to be very large in the summer, 86 square
miles, and much smaller in the winter and calving seasons, ranging from 10 to 27 square miles.  Musk oxen will typically stay in areas near
water during summer months and then move to higher ground where wind will blow off much of the snow covering food during the winter.

Musk oxen are generalized grazers.  As calves, they are dependent upon the milk of their mothers for up to 1 year.  Within weeks of birth, they
begin incorporating the adult foods into their diet.  In the summer months, the diet includes grasses, leafy plants, sedges, mosses, shrubs,
herbs, and generally any vegetation available.  The fecal matter of the animals at this time is very moist and still has high levels of nutrients
available.  In the winter months, the diet changes to willow, dwarf birch stems, roots, mosses, lichen, and any vegetation they can locate
under or above the snow.  The fecal matter during these months is very dry and has very few nutrients left after the animals have digested
the food.

Musk oxen are considered a harem breeder in which one dominant male attempts to mate with all of the estrus females of the herd.  
Beginning in late summer and into fall, males compete for dominance using very ritualized behaviors.  Males attempt to intimidate each
other through posturing, roaring, head swinging, urinating on forefeet with strong scent markers, displaying sides to show size, and head
butting.  During head butting, males face each other up to 45 meters apart, then charge up to 20 or 25 miles per hour and crash together on
the horn bosses (areas of thick horn and bone on the forehead of males). They can repeat this procedure up to 10 or 12 times or until one of
the males cannot continue or runs away.  This behavior is rarely fatal.  Males that compete for dominance are typically between the ages of 6
and 8 years old.  Older bulls are usually not strong enough, and younger males are typically not large enough, to compete.  Competition
between bulls sometimes results in solitary males.  Once dominance is determined, a bull attempts to keep the females close together to
defend them from other males.  Dominant males may breed multiple times with each female during one season.  Young musk oxen and
non-dominant bulls typically keep their distance from the breeding harem.  Breeding occurs from late August into September and birth
between mid-April and mid-May.  Muskoxen usually have single offspring after a gestation of about 8 months.  Twins are very rare and do not
usually survive.  Generally, within 45 minutes of birth, calves are standing and nursing.  Calves typically weigh 20 to 22 pounds at birth and
can gain up to 1 pound a day.  Though calves are born with a layer of baby qiviut and brown fat, they are dependent upon their mothers for
warmth and food for their first winter, sometimes longer.  Calves start eating adult food within weeks of birth, although they continue to nurse
for ten months to one year.  They may nurse longer depending on food availability, birth of a new calf, or temperament of the cow.  Musk ox
calves follow their mothers and hide underneath the her skirt of guard hair.  Females reach sexual maturity between 1 and 4 years of age,
depending on body condition, and will calve alternate years.  Calving every year is possible if food is available.  Males reach sexual maturity
between 3 and 4 years.  During attack from predators, calves are often pushed behind the rumps of the adults, or into the middle of a circle
formation.  Mothers also teach calves the social hierarchy behaviors by playing "games" such as king of the mountain, and mock head
butting.  Males are not reported to directly care for the young.  However, since these animals are social, it is likely that the adult male in a
herd helps to protect the young in the herd.

Though herds of musk ox native to Alaska and parts of Europe were driven to extinction through hunting pressures and climate fluctuations
in the late 1800's, the species has been successfully reintroduced from surviving populations in Canada and Greenland and is doing well.  
A small number of musk oxen originally from Greenland were reintroduced on Alaska's Nunivak Island in 1935-1936.  The population grew
over the years and supplied animals for other reintroduction efforts in northern Alaska from 1968 to 1981.  Today, a population of about
2,300 muskoxen resides in Alaska.

Northern Lights

Also know as the Aurora Borealis, these lights are best viewed in the cold dark winter months in Alaska.   The beautiful blaze of the Northern
or Aurora Borealis, begins when energetic electrically charged particles accelerate along the magnetic field lines into the upper
atmosphere, where they collide with gas atoms, causing the atoms to give off light. The air lights up rather like what happens in a
fluorescent light tube.  The colors reflect gases, the most usual yellow-green color coming from oxygen. Red coloring is also due to oxygen
with a contribution from nitrogen and violet is due to nitrogen. The charged particles originate from the sun, and it is the “weather” conditions
on the sun that decide whether or not we will see the aurora.

Print Information

The website address will not be printed on your print.  This print is treated with an ultra violent protective coating.  It will be rolled and
inserted into a mailing tube if ordering a glossy paper print, if ordering stretched canvas this print will be boxed.   The print  will be mailed
first class by the U.S. Postal Service and insured.
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Alaskan Art by Alaskan Artist Dianne Roberson
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