Musk Ox Farm

August 25, 1999

musk ox cow

What would anybody do on a rainy day in Alaska?
Yup, we drove to Palmer, about 40 miles north of Anchorage,
and paid a visit to the University of Alaska's musk ox farm.

musk oxen

Well, what's interesting about musk oxen and why would the
university want to establish a farm to raise them?

bull musk ox

The musk ox had been hunted to extinction on the
North American continent. Using stock from Greenland
and Siberia they were reintroduced. Still rare, the university has
worked to maintain diversity of bloodlines in the their new herds.

They have discovered the value of the qiviut (kiv-ee-ute) or the soft,
down or underwool that keeps the musk ox warm in winter. Qiviut is one
of the rarest, finest, and warmest fibers on earth. It is 8 times warmer
by weight than sheep's wool, it is softer than cashmere, and it will not
felt or shrink.

In the spring, musk oxen shed their qiviut. The fiber falls off in big
powder puffs. It was this natural shedding process that led to the creation
of what was the only herd of domesticated musk oxen in the world, now located
in Palmer. There is now a company in Montana doing the same thing for profit.

Qiviut has become the basis for an Alaskan cottage industry.
The qiviut is spun into yarn in Rhode Island, then distributed to knitters
in the native villages. Formed in 1969, OO-Mingmak, the Musk Ox Producers'
Co-operative is now a successful crafts cooperative formed of more than 200
Eskimo knitters who work at home in their isolated tundra and coastal villages
and handknit the fine qiviut yarn into beautiful, warm caps, scarves, and
smokerings. Each village has a signature knitting pattern, derived from
traditional Eskimo art.

Well, new you know the basics.

bull musk ox

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This page last updated February 2, 2000.