Musk ox wool

Who would have thought that a fibre so ethereal, with the lustre of silk and the softness of cashmere, could be ages old?
The prehistoric colossus that is the Arctic musk ox gives us qiviuk, one of the most precious wools ever produced.

As remarkable as it is rare, the musk ox is an ancient animal that survived the last ice age. A rugged, powerful beast, it journeyed through prehistory while mammoths and other large mammals disappeared from the surface of the earth. When the earth warmed up after the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, the musk ox followed the glaciers to the Arctic, where it is found today.

Softer than cashmere and warmer than wool, qiviuk has astonishing properties. This exceptionally fine and splendid fibre protects the musk ox from the extreme cold of the Canadian Arctic.

Qiviuk is amongst the rarest and most precious wools ever produced. Worldwide production fluctuates between 5 and 8 tonnes a year, 3,000 times less than cashmere! Furthermore, its supply can never be guaranteed. Currently, a good proportion of qiviuk comes from traditional hunting in Greenland, which is strictly controlled and respects the natural ecological balance.

Musk oxen live in small groups. They are extremely timid and it is difficult to get close to them, especially in the regions where they are hunted. As soon as musk oxen sense danger, they adopt a defensive formation with their young at the rear. They will charge if they feel cornered, but will prefer to run away after observing for a few seconds.

The musk ox cannot tolerate hot weather and once the spring arrives, it sheds its dual coat on the rocks and in the undergrowth. As such, between May and June, it is not unusual to find quantities of qiviuk in small tufts attached to the branches of the dwarf willows of the tundra that the herds pass through. The wool is then collected by small producers, but significant effort is needed to clean it.

Combing a skin to obtain qiviuk wool in the workshop of Anita Hoegh and Birthe Melin Andersen. To achieve this, pelts are attached to wooden cylinders. Firstly, the hair must be cut from the fur to a depth of around seven centimetres, so that the undercoat is accessible for combing.

Winter qiviuk is incredibly clean and needs little in the way of treatment. As a result of the bitter cold, it has no parasites and the thick hair that covers the qiviuk undercoat prevents penetration by thorns or dirt. Every skin has to be combed for over an hour to extract between 600 g and 1.2 kg of qiviuk.

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