They roam across the rolling plains of Greenland and the arctic regions of Canada, often in herds of eight to twenty. They have long, thick coats and short, but vicious horns. In the mating season, males emit a strong, musky odour to attract females. They are the Greenlandic muskoxen, known to Canadian natives as the "bearded ones".
During the Pleistocene period 2,588,000-11,700 years ago, muskoxen were much more widespread. Fossil evidence reveals that they inhabited much of the Siberian and North American Arctic, from the Urals to Greenland. However the Quaternary extinction event during the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene (13,000 BCE to 8,000 BCE) saw the populations of muskoxen in the Americas wiped out. Over time, hunting has also further reduced the number of these majestic creatures. Indeed, today populations of muskoxen mostly live in areas where they are, thankfully, protected from hunting.
On 27 November 1969 Greenland issued the first stamps in a series of five depicting various native fauna. Issued on this day was the 25kr value, depicting a muskox grazing in the fields. The stamp was engraved by Czeslaw Slania and it was designed by J. Rosing, an artist with whom Slania had previously collaborated for the Greenland postal services on many occasions. Indeed, together they had already created some of Greenland's most iconic stamps. This design, almost cartoon-like in style, manages to capture the wild, yet calm, nature of this amazing arctic creature. Simple. Elegant. A Slania classic!
Until next time...