The Arctic Group is in the “Weird & Wonderful” Children’s Discovery Centre on the First Floor.
It depicts a polar bear Ursus maritimus stalking a group of three musk oxen Ovibos moschatus (two adults and a calf).
In 1902 Auckland Museum received a bequest from the estate of Mr E.A. MacKechnie, which included £500 for "procuring groups of the larger mammals and the necessary show-cases". Mr MacKechnie (1823-1901), an Auckland solicitor, served on the Museum’s governing board and was President in 1882. He was also a benefactor of the Museum Library and the Auckland City Art Gallery.
The Arctic Group was the third of four mammal groups and arrived in 1906. It was prepared by the London taxidermy firm of Edward Gerrard & Sons, and shipped to New Zealand free-of-charge by the Shaw Savill Line. Upon receipt, the group was displayed in a large glass case in the centre of the Museums main hall which was then in a building in Princes Street.
The group was moved to the Museum’s present building in about 1928 and has now been exhibited almost continuously by the Museum for 100 years.
Musk oxen roam the arctic tundra where they eat grasses, sedges and herbage. They live in groups of 10-20, and at times of danger they bunch together, often in a circle or semi-circle with the calves inside. The largest males reach 400 kg.
The coarse outer guard hairs shed rain and snow and protect an inner coat of fine, soft hair that keeps out the cold. Polar bears are predators of musk oxen. Their front paws are large and oar-like to assist swimming. The soles of the feet are hairy, which insulates against the cold and provides a grip on icy surfaces.