Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Large Animal Research Station

Just outside the University of Alaska Fairbanks you can find a Large Animal Research Station, connected with the university, which is the largest private sanctuary of muskox in captivity anywhere in the world.

We decided to take one of their tours as spotting a muskox in the wild is rare and they are renowned for their extremely soft, warm and expensive hair, called qiviut.

These two muskox just finished headbutting one another. They apparently don't always play nice!

The hornplates across the muskox foreheads are actually made for headbutting and are several inches thick.

You can see the difference in the male and female skulls. The males being the headbutters with the thicker hornplates.

Once we finished learning about the muskox, we moved on to the caribou and reindeer.

These are caribou and have larger more ornate antlers which are shed every year. The antlers were still covered in velvet from the spring growth and looked so soft, although I didn't venture a feel.

He must've caught me eyeing his soft antlers!

A baby caribou named Rose also visited for a bit.

What an adorable little caribou nursling!

The caribou were the friendlier of the two in this section.

The reindeer in the back of this shot, mostly stayed away.

The kids had a great time watching the animals and learning about the difference in male and female muskox and how to tell a caribou from a reindeer.

We were even able to hold the antlers that the large caribou shed last fall.

And Elizabeth tried out the female reindeer's antlers. It's amazing how much weight they carry around on their heads with those antlers!

Soon it was time to say goodbye to the Large Animal Research Station. What a beautiful stretch of land they have for the animals.

In the shop we were able to feel the qiviut and see the yarn spun from the muskox hair.

It cost a pretty penny, but how awesome to know the exact animal the qiviut came from.

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