On the first part of any hike west from Kongsvoll into the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella Nasjonalpark, you’re quite likely to spot musk ox, the descendants of animals imported from Greenland in the late 1940s – which are also viewable on a musk-ox safari (see Hiking the Besseggen ridge). These hefty beasts have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years, protected from the cold by two coats of hair and using their hooves to dig through the snow to reach the roots, lichens and mosses on which they depend. So far so good, but their habit of herding together with the adults surrounding the young when faced with danger proved disastrous when they were hunted by rifle. By the mid-1940s, the future of the Greenland herd looked decidedly grim, so some were transferred to Norway to help preserve the species, and here in their new home they have prospered in a modest sort of way and now number about one hundred.
Conventional wisdom is that they will ignore you if you ignore them and keep at a distance of at least 200m. They are, however, not afraid of humans and will charge if irritated – retreat as quickly and quietly as possible if one starts snorting and scraping. Incidentally, there’s no truth in the rumour, promulgated by the mockumentary film Trolljegeren (“Troll Hunter”; 2010) that the musk ox serve as a handy larder for local trolls; or is there?