December 15th, 2010

Gil Marsh cover

They're cuuuuuuute

Musk oxen

They’re 4 feet tall, weigh between 600 and 700 pounds, and have been around since the Pleistocene—outlasting saber-tooth tigers, giant sloths and mastodons. They have two layers of fur, one to keep them warm in winter, and another to keep the biting insects at bay in the summer. They have the social lives of elephants, can effectively protect their young from predators, and really know how to find food to fatten up on. And when snow and ice and wind and sub-freezing temperatures roll in, they do. . . nothing.

As this charming New York Times article explains:

“You’ll see them in a big storm, drifted over, covered with snow,” said Dr. Lawler. “They’re almost part of the scenery.” They lapse into a state of what might be called hibernation al fresco, as their oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production drop and their metabolic rate slows by about a third. “They’re basically shutting down some of their machinery so they can survive on less food,” said Dr. Lawler, who has studied musk ox energetics.

Their scientific name is Ovibos moschatus. Ovibos!

How can you not love musk oxen?