European wildlife: Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) ramming, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway

March 22, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

European wildlife: Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) ramming, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway.

The images below show two muskoxen ramming. The ritual typically starts with the animals swaying their heads from side to side. This is the signal to prepare for a fight. The animals then walk backwards (about 10-15 meters each) while continuing to sway their heads. When they stop walking backwards they also stop swaying their heads. After a brief pause they charge towards each other, gaining speed along the way. The sequence ends with ramming each other on the head, exactly on the horns. Afterwards they stand there for a while, perhaps a bit dazed by the impact. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the impact is similar to that of a vehicle hitting a concrete wall at 17 mi/h (27 km/h). The horn and thick skull provide protection against the impact. 

I photographed the running animals at about 1/160-1/200 seconds and panned the camera along with the animal that is running towards the right. This allowed for some motion blur while also keeping some sharpness in the image. Interestingly, the animal lifts its front feet just before the impact. This may allow the animal to ram its opponent with even greater force. At this moment its opponent has just entered the frame. The opponent is particularly blurred because I am panning the camera in the opposite direction to keep track with the first animal. The moment of impact shows how precise the animals are with ramming each other exactly on the horns. My wife commented how it seems that the fur of the animals is smooth at the moment of impact, potentially because of the shock wave.

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Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in the process of charging another male, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in the process of charging another male, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in the process of charging another male, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway. Muskoxen evolved in Asia and adapted to arctic tundra environments. Muskoxen became extinct in Europe (last records are from Sweden about 9,000 years ago) and Asia (last records are from the Taymyr peninsula in Russia about 2,000 years ago), probably primarily as a result of over hunting by people. Muskoxen crossed into North America from Siberia between 200,000 and 90,000 years ago and they survived in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland. Muskoxen were reintroduced in Europe and Asia relatively recently. Muskoxen were first reintroduced in Dovrefjell National Park in Norway in 1931-1932, but these animals were all killed during the second world war. A second reintroduction attempt (1947-1953) was successful though. The muskoxen population size in Dovrefjell National Park is currently estimated at several hundred individuals. Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in the process of charging another male, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in the process of charging another male, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in the process of charging another male, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway. Muskoxen evolved in Asia and adapted to arctic tundra environments. Muskoxen became extinct in Europe (last records are from Sweden about 9,000 years ago) and Asia (last records are from the Taymyr peninsula in Russia about 2,000 years ago), probably primarily as a result of over hunting by people. Muskoxen crossed into North America from Siberia between 200,000 and 90,000 years ago and they survived in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland. Muskoxen were reintroduced in Europe and Asia relatively recently. Muskoxen were first reintroduced in Dovrefjell National Park in Norway in 1931-1932, but these animals were all killed during the second world war. A second reintroduction attempt (1947-1953) was successful though. The muskoxen population size in Dovrefjell National Park is currently estimated at several hundred individuals. Muskox (Ovibos moschatus) getting ready for impact, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskox (Ovibos moschatus) getting ready for impact, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskox (Ovibos moschatus) getting ready for impact, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway. Muskoxen evolved in Asia and adapted to arctic tundra environments. Muskoxen became extinct in Europe (last records are from Sweden about 9,000 years ago) and Asia (last records are from the Taymyr peninsula in Russia about 2,000 years ago), probably primarily as a result of over hunting by people. Muskoxen crossed into North America from Siberia between 200,000 and 90,000 years ago and they survived in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland. Muskoxen were reintroduced in Europe and Asia relatively recently. Muskoxen were first reintroduced in Dovrefjell National Park in Norway in 1931-1932, but these animals were all killed during the second world war. A second reintroduction attempt (1947-1953) was successful though. The muskoxen population size in Dovrefjell National Park is currently estimated at several hundred individuals. Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) ramming, moment of impact, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) ramming, moment of impact, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) ramming, moment of impact, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway. Muskoxen evolved in Asia and adapted to arctic tundra environments. Muskoxen became extinct in Europe (last records are from Sweden about 9,000 years ago) and Asia (last records are from the Taymyr peninsula in Russia about 2,000 years ago), probably primarily as a result of over hunting by people. Muskoxen crossed into North America from Siberia between 200,000 and 90,000 years ago and they survived in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland. Muskoxen were reintroduced in Europe and Asia relatively recently. Muskoxen were first reintroduced in Dovrefjell National Park in Norway in 1931-1932, but these animals were all killed during the second world war. A second reintroduction attempt (1947-1953) was successful though. The muskoxen population size in Dovrefjell National Park is currently estimated at several hundred individuals. Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) just after impact, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) just after impact, Dovrefjell National Park, NorwayMuskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) just after impact, Dovrefjell National Park, Norway. Muskoxen evolved in Asia and adapted to arctic tundra environments. Muskoxen became extinct in Europe (last records are from Sweden about 9,000 years ago) and Asia (last records are from the Taymyr peninsula in Russia about 2,000 years ago), probably primarily as a result of over hunting by people. Muskoxen crossed into North America from Siberia between 200,000 and 90,000 years ago and they survived in Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland. Muskoxen were reintroduced in Europe and Asia relatively recently. Muskoxen were first reintroduced in Dovrefjell National Park in Norway in 1931-1932, but these animals were all killed during the second world war. A second reintroduction attempt (1947-1953) was successful though. The muskoxen population size in Dovrefjell National Park is currently estimated at several hundred individuals.


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