Musk Ox Farm
One of the most fascinating animals in Alaska is indigenous to this State but was hunted to extinction in the nineteenth century. Efforts have been made by biologists to reintroduce the species to Alaska with stock from other places around the world. There are now several healthy herds that can be found in the remote reaches of Western Alaska. However, the original animals in these herds came from one of two Musk Ox farms that still exist in Alaska. One of these farms lies just north of Palmer, Alaska.
To find the Musk Ox Farm, watch for signs announcing “Musk Ox Farm” along the road as you climb the Glenn Highway out of Palmer. A short dirt road will lead you directly into the farm.
The Musk Oxen are raised domestically for their extremely valuable fur known as Qiviut. The Qiviut is an extremely warm, soft and ultra strong fiber. The farm collects the shedding Qiviut and delivers it to a native village cooperative. The cooperative knits it into scarves and hats with traditional designs of the particular tribes involved in the cooperative. These very rare articles are sold in few places, and since not many are made, they are quite expensive. The farm has a shop selling these rare garments.
The farm also features a fascinating museum and a tour of the animals. Musk Oxen are so strange looking that we would not be surprised to see them in a science fiction movie. They closely resemble the Bantha in George Lucas’ “Star Wars”. They are quite playful. Claimjumper and I got to see one of the large males playing with a huge ball, charging and butting it with his head across a pond.
The females are instinctively protective of their young. While Claimjumper attempted to photograph some of the newborns she was charged by one of the mothers.
The tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable. And the stories he told about the farm’s experiences with the animals were hilarious. One such story had to do with the time the farm decided to remove the horns completely from the Musk Oxen to prevent them from harming each other when they fight. The farm learned that the horns are more defensive than offensive. The hornless animals still fought and began exhibiting signs of serious brain damage!
The tours run through the summer, but they are available during the winter by appointment. For contact information on the Musk Ox Farm, click here.
Last Visited: June 1999