Muskox | a newcomer in the Norwegian landscape | Norway

The Norwegians rarely allow alien species into their fauna. With one notable exception, the muskox - first welcomed in from Greenland in 1924.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
A muskox in the Dovre mountains. | Photo: Per Harald Olsen - NTNU, Faculty of Natural Sciences cc by.
A muskox in the Dovre mountains. | Photo: Per Harald Olsen - NTNU cc by.

Pronunciation

Moskus

Roots in Central Asia

Muskox history stretches far back, to the temperate highlands of Central Asia. Later, the animal adapted to a colder climate, and made the Arctic and permafrost tundra its prime habitat. From Asia, the species expanded both westwards and eastwards, following the glacier-edge as it moved north and south through the ice ages.

The Norwegians call it moskus

With its curved horns, solid forehead, and thick- and long-haired coat, the muskox even looks ancient – as old as the mountains. The Norwegians call it moskus – or moskusokse.

Ancient remains found in Norway

Muskox remains have been found in the Norwegian landscape – but they predate the end of the last ice age, and thus human history in this part of the world. Still, it is reasonable to believe that the species was known to Norwegian hunters and explorers, whose Arctic travels go back a thousand years and more.

Was in danger of becoming extinct

For millennia, the muskox was found in sections of Europe, Asia, North America, and on the island of Greenland. But by the 1920s, the species had disappeared from most of these areas, except for some remaining herds in Arctic Canada, and on Greenland.

Norway wanted to help

The Norwegian landscape may not be the ideal muskox habitat, but the Norwegians still wanted to help save and strengthen the species. With Norway’s long-awaited independence in 1905, came also the search for new national symbols. The muskox, with its look of history, was a perfect match. This, in addition to the finds of ancient bones, may well have been an added motivation when deciding to introduce the species into the Norwegian fauna.

A first attempt in 1924

Between 1924 and 1927, 12 individuals were taken from Greenland to the Norwegian island of Gurskøy, southwest of the city of Ålesund. Sadly, they all perished within a few years.

If at first you don’t succeed

In 1932, a second attempt was made. This time, 10 individuals were released into the mountainous region of Dovre, located in the central parts of Norway. Later, two more individuals were added to the stock.

Dovre – a mountain fortress

The Dovre mountains are like a massive fortress, a mighty vault safeguarding the very essence of Norway’s folklore and history. Mythologically, it was the perfect location for a muskox habitat.

Lost during World War II

This first Dovre-stock survived into the war-years, between 1940 and 1945. However, these were difficult times, and the animals were hunted, and sadly all eliminated.

Success at last – in 1947

Between 1947 and 1953, there was a third and successful attempt, again at Dovre. 21 Greenland muskox individuals were released. Despite a slow start, and many setbacks over the years, the animals have since survived, thrived, and multiplied. In 2019, the Dovre stock counted 237 individuals.

Straying east

Straying individuals have also migrated east, and established a small presence on the border with Sweden, in the regions of Femundsmarka and Härjedalen.

The muskox may attack you

It is possible to see this beautiful creature in its natural habitat, but we strongly recommend that you do it via a guided tour. Unlike similar types of species, the muskox does not necessarily flee when feeling threatened: it attacks. Being attacked by a furious muskox is highly dangerous; a situation that you would not like to find yourself in. Heed all local advice – and be safe rather than sorry.

Main sources: «Moskus» by Nils G. Lundh and others – Sør-Trøndelag fylke, Länsstyrelsen i Jämtlands län 1992. | Norwegian environment agency | Arbeiderbladet 21 September 1929 | Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

With a growing population and public sector, Norway pushed through significant reforms in several areas: public structure and organisation, welfare, health care, tax, policing, public services, and more.
Whether it be on a rainy day - or a beautiful summer’s day like this one - the coastal paths take us through some pleasing stretches of Norwegian scenery.
Ljå is a Norwegian noun that means a scythe - an old agricultural cutting-tool used when mowing the grass to make hay, or when harvesting the grain crops.
In my childhood, life was simple. And the small joys of Christmas lifted our spirits - and delivered us safely into the new year.
After a troubled ten-year courtship, the current King Harald V of Norway finally got to marry his Miss Sonja Haraldsen on the 29th of August 1968.
As a first such an event in modern times: the Norwegian counties Sør-Trøndelag and Nord-Trøndelag have now merged.
It is said that all people are equal in Heaven. But the historical churchyard shows us that no such equality applied here on Earth.
Magne Løvstuen and his family adopted this moose calf after saving it from drowning in Lake Mjøsa.
Myrmelk is a Norwegian noun that means milk conserved in a container buried in a mountain peat bog, left there for herders or others to drink at a later stage.
Queen Maud of Norway was born in London in 1869, as Princess Maud of Wales. Her grandmother was none other than the formidable Queen Victoria.
In the spring, the Norwegian mountain-snow melts and turns into creeks, rivers and magnificent waterfalls.
A kipe is a tall, woven basket, often made of twigs from the birch tree. It was carried on the back, and typically used when carrying loads in a landscape full of steep fields and paths.
Do you have trouble sleeping? Here are some examples of how the old Norwegians used Mother Nature’s very own remedies to cure their ailments.
In the old farming society, nature dictated the flow of the working year. And farmworkers could only leave their jobs on 2 specific days during the year.
Bondegård is a Norwegian noun that means farm. In informal speech and in many dialects, people only use the single word gård or gard.
Do you know the name of Norway’s capital city? Test yourself, friends, and family in this 10 multiple-choice questions quiz vol. 1. See the correct answer below each photo.
After the Black Death, it took the Norwegian communities centuries to recover. And soon, the country also lost its independence.
With the High middle ages came expansion and progress. But everything was about to change, in the most brutal way imaginable.
Skodje sogelag and Louis Giske wrote the history of the two Sortehaug farms and its inhabitants back in 1986.
Once you start taking an interest in the old Norwegian farming and family history, then the people of the past start coming to the fore.
When humankind first appeared in the Norwegian landscape – sometime after the last ice age – the search for food was their primary motivation.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history