Musk Ox (ovibos moschatus, De Blainv.), a ruminating animal found in the arctic regions of America, seeming to form, as its generic name imports, the connecting link between the ox and the sheep. It is about the size of a two-year-old cow, 5½ ft. from nose to root of tail, and weighs about 700 lbs., two or three times as much as the reindeer; the head is large, and surmounted by broad flat horns in both sexes; in the males the horns meet on the median line of the head, from which they bend down on the cheeks, and then turn outward and upward, much as in the gnu; dull white and rough on the basal half, they are smooth and shining beyond, and black at the point; the horns of an old male measured by Dr. Kane were 2¼ ft. from tip to tip, and each 1 5/6 ft. to the median line of the head. The nose is very obtuse, with only the small space between the nostrils naked; the ears not perceptible, tail concealed by the hair, the legs short, and the hoofs broad and inflexed at the tips. The hair is so long that it almost reaches the ground, so that the animal looks more like a large sheep or goat than an ox; the color is brownish black, more or less grizzled.
The musk ox frequents arctic America from lat. 60° to 79° N, and from Ion. 67° 30' W. to the Pacific coast; though Dr. Kane saw no living specimens, the skeletons and probably footmarks were so numerous that he was inclined to believe the statement of the Esquimaux that these animals had been recent visitors, and probably migrated from America to Greenland; they are generally seen in herds of 20 or 30, in rocky barren lands, and feed on grass and lichens; the rutting season is about the end of August, and the young are born toward the first of June. Though the legs are short, they run very fast, and climb hills and rocks with great facility; they are difficult to approach; the males are irascible, and often dangerous when slightly wounded; the flesh, when fat, is well tasted, but when lean smells strongly of musk, as does the whole animal, whence its name; the hair is long and fine, and, if it could be obtained in sufficient quantity, would be useful in the arts; the skin is made into articles of dress by the Esquimaux. The tracks made by this animal in the snow are much like those of the reindeer, somewhat larger, and can be distinguished only by the skilful hunter. Only one living species is known, and the geographical distribution of this is not precisely ascertained.
It is very rare in collections, the only specimen in the United States being in the museum of the Philadelphia academy of natural sciences, a stuffed skin presented by Dr. Kane. It is said to occur fossil at Esch-scholtz bay on the N. W. coast. The bos Pal-lasii (De Kay) of North America and the fossil oxen found in various parts of the United States, coming near the musk ox, have been described by Dr. Leidy, under the name of boötherium, in vol. v. of the "Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge" (1853), as the B. cavifrons and B. bombifrons; these probably, he says, were clothed in a long fleece, and inhabited the great valley of the Mississippi just anterior to the drift period. The Siberian, and northern European fossils probably belong to the genus ovibos.
Musk Ox (Ovibos moschatus).