Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 2207–2217 | Cite as

Odor of the muskox

A preliminary investigation
  • Peter F. Flood
  • Suzanne R. Abrams
  • Gillian D. Muir
  • Janice E. Rowell


The behavior of captive male muskoxen was observed closely during their characteristic superiority display, the anatomy of the preputial region was studied in two adults and three calves, and preputial washings and preorbital gland secretion were subjected to gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy. During the superiority display, the prepuce was everted to form a pendulous tube tipped with a fringe of matted hair. Owing to the movement of the animal, the urine that dribbled from the preputial opening was liberally applied to the long guard hairs of the belly. The superiority display was almost exclusively confined to dominant males and apparently accounted for their odor. In the quiescent state, the hair seen around the preputial opening was drawn inside and formed an 8 cm-wide band on the lining of the prepuce. The preputial washings contained large amounts of benzoic acid andp-cresol. The infraorbital gland secretion contained cholesterol, benzaldehyde, and a homologous series of saturated γ-lactones ranging from 8 to 12 carbons. The latter compounds and the natural secretion smell similar to the human nose.

Key words

Muskox Ovibos moschatus odor preorbital gland prepuce rut urine behavior gas chromatography mass spectroscopy lactone 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter F. Flood
    • 1
  • Suzanne R. Abrams
    • 2
  • Gillian D. Muir
    • 1
  • Janice E. Rowell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Veterinary AnatomyWestern College of Veterinary Medicine University of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.National Research Council Plant Biotechnology InstituteSaskatoonCanada

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