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Musk Ox

sheep, short, legs and musky

MUSK OX. The musk ox (Oribog moseha ins), although approaching cattle in size, is really quite as closely allied to the sheep. It undoubt edly belongs in the family Bovithe and is perhaps entitled to have a subfamily division to itself. The genus contains only the single species, at present confined to Arctic America, but formerly ranging over the Northern United States as far south as Kentucky and over Northern Asia and Europe also, as is shown by the bones found in the Pleistocene deposits of those regions. Its south ern limit is gradually retreating northward, and there can be little doubt that the number of musk oxen is steadily declining. The name 'musk ox' or 'musk sheep' refers to a peculiar musky odor, the origin of which seems to be in doubt ; apparently, however, there is no special gland as in the musk deer and other musky mammals. The legs are short and stout, so that the animal is somewhat lower than a small ox, which it otherwise resembles in size and shape. The hair is amber brown, woolly and long; thick, matted and curly on the shoulders, giving the appearance there of a hump; elsewhere it is straight and hangs down so as to conceal the short tail and upper half of the legs. The wool has been spun into fabrics said to he extremely soft. The hoofs are remarkable in being asymmetrical, the outer half being rounded while the inner is pointed ; the sole of the foot is hairy. The head is inclined to he massive, especially in old males, where the horns have extremely broad bases. The latter

are elegantly curved, first obliquely downward and backward by the side of the head and then upward and forward. The ears are so small as to be concealed by the hair, and the muffle is hairy as in sheep and goats. The flesh is coarse grained, but of variable quality, sonic individuals being tender and of good flavor, while others are tough and so musky as to be uneatable. Curious ly enough, the difference in flavor is apparently not a matter of age or sex. Musk oxen are gregarious, going in flocks of 20 or 30. or rarely as many as SO or 100, and are said to be very sheep-like in their habits. Although the legs are so short, they run with speed, and can climb steep slopes and clamber over rocks with remark able agility. The young are produced, one at a time, at the end of May or early in June, and the rutting season is inn September. The food of the musk ox is grass, moss. lichens, and tender shoots of willow and pine. They are themselves an important item in the larder of the Eskimos and of Arctic explorers. The writings of these explorers contain the hest accounts of the ani mal, whose young bate now and then been brought alive to Europe. and have survived for a time in zoilogical gardens. See Plate of WILD SHEEP AND MUSK ON with SHEEP.