Thursday, 28 August 2008

Moxy Moxen

I didn't grow up around Muskox, so when I saw my first one, I did a bit of a double take. "Is that it?" I wondered to myself. "Or is this a midget one?" See, they're not very large animals, roughly 1.25 metres at the shoulder. They look like overgrown goats, in a sense, which is entirely accurate, as Moxen's genus, Ovibos, is closely related to the Goats. It's Caprinae, or the Goat-Antelope family, and so really isn't a oxen at all.

But that other first impression? The one where I thought `meh, not much?` Dead wrong. Muskox are Crazy with a capital C. Especially love struck Muskox. They're dangerous, dumb, angry animals in the rut; one you don't want to be anywhere near. Thus, I don't envy the handelers' job at LARS, where they have to deal with them. I've heard some crazy stories...

Here's an example, not from a domestic herd, but from near Kotz: a muskox gored three sled dogs, and took a chunk of ammunition at close range, before going down. I'm frankly surprised the musher didn't get injured himself before the Moxen decided to give up the go. When they're in that sort of mood, they're too angry and dumb to realize they're dead.
They don't seek out confrontation with humans, but when people and pets cross paths with them, problems arise -- particularly during the rut, said Jim Dau, Kotzebue-area wildlife biologist.
I'd disagree with that. They seek out confrontation with humans, dogs, shadows, fence posts, stray winds, bears, other males, and sometimes chunks of ground that have pissed them off and so must die. They're not bright animals (far from it!), and when they have that many agressive hormones coursing through their veins, the whole world is potentially a punching bag. I boggle at people who decide to ranch these things. Boggle.

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