May 19, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Get ready for it.  Another post about... you guessed it, the girls!

Every spring, musk oxen prep for warmer weather by shedding their downy-soft undercoat, called qiviut (pronounced "kiv-ee-ute").  Qiviut is eight times warmer than lamb's wool and extraordinarily lightweight. It's one of the finest, and rarest, natural fibers known to man. And did I mention it's super soft?! Believe it or not, each musk ox yields around four to six pounds of qiviut a year! That's a lot of hair! Qivuit is often collected and made into garments, super soft and pricey garments. 

At the Zoo, we give the girls a little help with their shedding and comb it out of them!  Sound like fun?  This is the first year we were able to comb the girls.  They love to be scratched, but we weren't quite sure how they would handle being combed. Combs are pretty scary! We were a little nervous they would be terrified at first - their ears would start twitching and they'd turn wide-eyed (which normally happens if they're unsure of something).  But, turns out they absolutely love being combed!  It must be such a relief to rid their bodies of all that hair. It's pretty funny when you have a 200 plus pound musk ox leaning against your legs because you've found the itchy spot. While it's fun to give them a little pampering, it's not an easy task. It takes a lot of combing to get all of that qiviut! In just one half hour pampering session last week, we had half a garbage bag full but had only made a small dent in Maya's rear end! But if it means getting to spend more time with the girls, then I don't care how long it takes :)

This picture cracks me up. She's smiling :) And look at those not so little daggers for horns!
All finished. Afternoon siesta time.

Photos (unless otherwise noted) taken by Stephanie's wonderful husband, Sean Hartman.

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