Interesting Facts about the World’s Largest and Smallest Deer Breeds
You may be quite shocked when you read about the largest and smallest deer breeds in the world. Most people are unaware that there are nearly 100 different breeds in the deer family! The breeds we are going to talk about in this article are the moose, elk, muntjac, and pudu breeds, but first we are going to get familiar with the deer species as a whole.
Deer are furry, hoofed animals that are present in many areas of the world. Most deer’s hooves are cloven, or split into two toes. They are herbivores, meaning they generally feed off of grass, leaves, herbs, berries, wild fruit, corn, and other crops. Because of this diet, many breeds of deer have a very different dental structure. While they have canines and molars in the back of the mouth, the front top portion of the mouth is made up of a hard palate, which is used in conjunction with small incisors on the front bottom portion of the jaw. Most deer are very agile with fast running speeds and impressive jumping heights, both of which aid them in living in grassy and wooded areas.
The first deer we are going to talk about is the moose, which is the largest of the deer species. They generally grow to a shoulder height of about 8 – 10 feet and weigh over 1000 pounds. Their antlers can grow to be nearly 70 inches across and are grown, discarded, and re-grown every year. Moose are commonly found in northern climates such as Canada and Alaska, but as a rule usually stick to wooded areas. Some of the moose’s predators include black and grizzly bears and packs of wolves, however moose tends to hold their own quite well against these predators unless they are very young, old, or ill.
Another of the largest species of deer is the elk. Elk can grow to reach a shoulder height of about 5 feet tall and weight as much as 800 to 1000 pounds. They travel in herds where some will keep watch for danger while others eat. The diet of the elk is the same as other deer; they usually partake of grass and other small plants as well as tree branches and bark. As the moose, elk too will grow and shed their antlers each year. As the antlers grow, they are covered with a velvet-like fur that circulates blood to the bone tissue that makes up the antlers. Due to the size of elk, their predators tend to be larger animals such as grizzly bears, mountain lions, and wolves.
The smallest deer in the world is a fuzzy little critter called a pudu. They almost have a rabbit-like look to them, and are quite lucky to reach a height around 2 feet! They hail from Chile and Argentina and stick to a diet of leaves, grass, twigs, and bark. If they can reach fruit, they will eat that as well. These guys have quite the talent for standing on their hind legs to sniff for danger or reach for food. Speaking of danger, the pudu doesn’t have the advantage of height and strength, as moose and elk do, so they have quite a lot to fear from predators! Cougars, foxes, and even small cats are a threat to the pudu.
Another to grace the “smallest deer” list is the Musk, who also averages out around a height of 2 feet. This deer seems quite less threatening than most deer (aside from the pudu) in that it doesn’t grow antlers and has a very “awkward teenager” look about it. –Until you see the curved tusks poking out from its lips. One look at these tusks will have you recalling every vampire movie you’ve ever seen! In all seriousness, though, this deer was put on the endangered species list in 1979 due to over-killing of the species for its musk gland. Musk pods have been highly coveted since the 5th century and were primarily used to give fragrances long-lasting power. Unfortunately, poaching is still happening today in the Himalayas and a few other areas where this breed resides.
As you can see, there is quite a variety available among the deer species. I hope you’ve found these deer facts both interesting and enlightening!