Musk Ox, or Musk Sheep, a grazing animal of the Far North. It is neither an ox nor a sheep but is related to both. The musk ox was widely distributed in the Arctic about 600,000 years ago but is now found only in certain areas of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, and Siberia. It provides both food and clothing for Eskimos in some areas. A few of the animals have been domesticated. Musk oxen are named for the musky odor emanating from their fur.
The musk ox stands about 5 feet (1.5 m) high at the shoulders, is 8 feet (2.4 m) long, and weighs about 600 pounds (270 kg). Its soft underfur is concealed by shaggy, dark-brown or blackish hair that hangs almost to the ground. The large, spreading hooves enable the animal to walk easily even over the deepest snow. Bulls and cows both have long horns that curve outward and downward from casques (bony plates) on their foreheads.
Musk oxen feed on grass, lichens, moss, and willows dug from under the snow. When in danger the animals form a circle, heads outward, with the calves in the center. This formation repels wolves, but makes the animals easy targets for hunters.
The musk ox is Ovibos moschatus of the cattle, sheep, and goat family, Bovidae.