These funny looking animals are called a ‘Muskox’ and even though they might look more like an ox, as the name suggests as well. They are actually closer related to sheep and goats. These animals are between 1.10 and 1.50 meter tall on the shoulders and both male and female have these long curled horns. It has two different types of fur, the stay warm and dry during the cold arctic winters. The underlayer is shorter and very dense, a wool underlayer. While the second layer is very long, these hairs can almost reach the ground!
During the warmer summer months, the muskoxen live in wet areas, such as the river valleys. In the winter months, they will move to higher elevations to avoid the deep snow. This is to reduce the amount of energy that they need to forage for their food such as; grasses, willows, woody plants, lichens and mosses. And you do not want them to become angry towards you, they can reach speeds up to 60 km/h. Even Usain Bolt is not quick enough to outrun the Muskox.
The Muskox used to life in Norway but became extinct due to the last ice age. As the whole of Norway was covered by kilometres of ice. The first attempt at reintroducing the Muskox to Norway was in 1931. The imported from Greenland and brought to Dovrefjell National Park. Unfortunately, these animals were hunted to extinction during World War II. When the war was over, there was a second attempt to reintroduce them again with new individuals from Greenland between 1947 and 1953. This attempt was not without problems either, in 1983 there were only 36 animals left. Which is makes the population very vulnerable for diseases, predators and the harsh climate. Luckily the animals survived and in 2012 there were up to 300 individuals living in the national park!
The intensity of the winters is a big factor in the success of the reintroduced groups. When the winter is too severe the female muskox will not go into gesture and therefore not give birth to a calf the next year. If this happens too frequently, there is much less offspring which can become a great danger of their persistence. Thankfully, the Muskox are now protected within Dovrefjell National Park and can roam these wildlands for many generations to come.
Dovrefjell National Park is the only place in Norway, and one of the few places in the world, where you can experience the majestic muskox. During these safaris, you will get the experience of seeing these animals in their natural habitat. From far away it just looks like a moving rock, but when you come closer or it starts to move you will start to actually see the muskox itself. It blends in perfectly with its surroundings. Although, in the winter they are easier to distinguish with the white snow. These large and calm animals are considered peaceful animals, but always make sure to keep your distance. Especially during the mating season and when there are young calves in the herd.
There is much more to do than just a Muskox safari in Dovrefjell National Park, you are also able to see reindeers and mountain grouse. You can climb snøhetta, the highest peak in the park at 2286 meters tall. And you can hike through the park for days. I have been in Dovrefjell National Park for two days, while I was in Norway for my Erasmus Exchange. We went with all the international students and we had Floris Smeets as a guide, he owns from Photo Tours Norway and offers the most amazing nature and wildlife photography tours throughout Norway. As well for the Muskox in Dovrefjell National Park.