Musk deer

Musk deer
Temporal range: Early Miocene–Recent
Moschus moschiferus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Suborder: Ruminantia
Infraorder: Pecora
Family: Moschidae
(Gray, 1821)
Genus: Moschus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Moschus chrysogaster — Alpine Musk Deer
  • Moschus moschiferus — Siberian Musk Deer
  • Moschus berezovskii — Dwarf Musk Deer
  • Moschus fuscus — Black Musk Deer
  • Moschus anhuiensis — Anhui Musk Deer
  • Moschus cupreus — Kashmir Musk Deer
  • Moschus leucogaster — White-bellied Musk Deer

Musk deer are artiodactyls of the genus Moschus, the only genus of family Moschidae. They are more primitive than the cervids, or true deer, in not having antlers or facial glands, in having only a single pair of teats, and in possessing a gall bladder, a caudal gland, a pair of tusk-like teeth and—of particular economic importance to humans—a musk gland. Moschids live mainly in forested and alpine scrub habitats in the mountains of southern Asia, notably Himalayas. Moschids are entirely Asian in their present distribution, being extinct in Europe where the earliest musk deer are known from Oligocene deposits.



Musk deer resemble small deer with a stocky build, and hind legs longer than their front legs. They are approximately 80 to 100 centimetres (31 to 39 in) in length, 50 to 70 centimetres (20 to 28 in) tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 7 and 17 kilograms (15 and 37 lb). The feet of musk deer are adapted for climbing in rough terrain. Like the Chinese water deer, a cervid, they have no antlers, but the males do have enlarged upper canines, forming sabre-like tusks. The dental formula is similar to that of true deer: Upper:, lower:

The musk gland is found only in adult males. It lies in a sac located between the genitals and the umbilicus, and its secretions are most likely used to attract mates.

Musk deer are herbivores, living in hilly, forested environments, generally far from human habitation. Like true deer, they eat mainly leaves, flowers, and grasses, with some mosses and lichens. They are solitary animals, and maintain well-defined territories, which they scent mark with their caudal glands. Musk deer are generally shy, and either nocturnal, or crepuscular.

Males leave their territories during the rutting season, and compete for mates, using their tusks as weapons. Female musk deer give birth to a single fawn after about 150–180 days. The newborn young are very small, and essentially motionless for the first month of their life, a feature that helps them remain hidden from predators.[1]

Musk deers have been hunted for their scent glands which can fetch up to $45,000/kg on the black market. It is rumored that ancient royalty wore the scent of the musk deer and that it is an aphrodisiac.[2]


Reconstruction of the extinct genus Micromeryx

Musk deer may be a surviving representative of the Palaeomerycidae, a family of ruminants that is probably ancestral to deer. They first appeared in the early Oligocene epoch and disappeared in the Pliocene. Most species lacked antlers, though some were found in later species. The musk deer are however still placed in a separate family.


  1. ^ Frädrich, Hans (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 518–9. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 
  2. ^ Wild Russia, Discovery Channel

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Musk deer — Musk Musk (m[u^]sk), n. [F. musc, L. muscus, Per. musk, fr. Skr. mushka testicle, orig., a little mouse. See {Mouse}, and cd. {Abelmosk}, {Muscadel}, {Muscovy duck}, {Nutmeg}.] 1. A substance of a reddish brown color, and when fresh of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • musk deer — musk′ deer n. mam a small, antlerless deer, Moschus moschiferus, of central Asia: the male has tusks and secretes musk • Etymology: 1675–85 …   From formal English to slang

  • musk deer — ► NOUN ▪ a small East Asian deer, the male of which produces musk in an abdominal sac …   English terms dictionary

  • musk deer — n. a small, hornless deer (Moschus moschiferus) of the uplands of central Asia: the male secretes musk and has tusklike upper canines …   English World dictionary

  • musk deer — noun small heavy limbed upland deer of central Asia; male secretes valued musk • Syn: ↑Moschus moschiferus • Hypernyms: ↑deer, ↑cervid • Member Holonyms: ↑Moschus, ↑genus Moschus * * * …   Useful english dictionary

  • musk deer — a small, hornless deer, Moschus moschiferus, of central Asia, the male of which secretes musk: now rare. [1675 85] * * * ▪ mammal  (species Moschus moschiferus), small, compact deer, family Cervidae (order Artiodactyla). A solitary, shy animal,… …   Universalium

  • musk deer — kabargos statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas gentis apibrėžtis Gentyje 4 rūšys. Paplitimo arealas – R. Azija, Himalajai. atitikmenys: lot. Moschus angl. musk deer; musk deer vok. Moschustiere rus. кабарги pranc. porte muscs… …   Žinduolių pavadinimų žodynas

  • musk-deer — kabargos statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas gentis apibrėžtis Gentyje 4 rūšys. Paplitimo arealas – R. Azija, Himalajai. atitikmenys: lot. Moschus angl. musk deer; musk deer vok. Moschustiere rus. кабарги pranc. porte muscs… …   Žinduolių pavadinimų žodynas

  • musk deer — kabarga statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Moschus moschiferus angl. musk deer; Siberian musk deer vok. Moschushirsch; Moschustier rus. кабарга; сибирская кабарга pranc. musc; porte musc ryšiai:… …   Žinduolių pavadinimų žodynas

  • musk deer — /ˈmʌsk dɪə/ (say musk dear) noun any of various small, hornless deer of the family Moschidae, especially Moschus moschiferus, of mountainous taiga regions of central Asia, the male of which secretes musk and has large canine teeth …   Australian English dictionary

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