This photograph, taken in August 1929, shows a few muskox calves grazing in Reykjavík’s central Austurvöllur square, which was back then covered in grass. The calves were brought to Iceland from Greenland by some enterprising hunters who dreamt of enriching the country’s dull fauna with a breed of Icelandic muskoxen.
Before being placed on a farm in southern Iceland, the frightened calves were paraded out for curious onlookers who had gathered at Austurvöllur. Most of Reykjavík’s inhabitants had never seen such unusual creatures—which are found mainly in northern Canada and Greenland and are hunted for their fur and meat.
The Icelandic hunters killed 34 adult muskoxen in the process of capturing these six calves. Unfortunately, not one of them survived to adulthood after quickly perishing from local diseases. In 1931, five more calves were brought from Norway, but they too died soon after arrival. And with them, the dream of the Icelandic muskoxen disappeared forever.