Linzey, Donald W. Wytheville Community College, Wytheville, Virginia.
Last reviewed:September 2020
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- Distribution and habitat
- Notable deer
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The name for any four-legged, hoofed, grazing animal in the mammalian family Cervidae. Deer are ruminant, even-toed ungulates (hoofed mammals) belonging to the order Artiodactyla. As members of the family Cervidae, they also are known as cervids. In general, deer vary in size from small and delicate to large and massive, and they range from the dimensions of a rabbit to those of a large horse. The males of nearly all deer species possess antlers that are shed annually. Depending on the classification scheme, there are approximately 50 different species of deer. Representative species include the musk deer, Chinese water deer, barking deer (muntjac), fallow deer, axis deer, sambar deer, sika, red deer, roe deer, elk (wapiti), white-tailed deer (Fig. 1), mule or black-tailed deer, marsh deer, moose (also known as elk in Eurasia), and caribou (reindeer). The smallest living deer species is the northern pudu of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, with a shoulder height of 32–36 cm (12.6–14.2 in.). The largest living species is the Alaskan moose, which stands 140–235 cm (4.6–7.7 ft) at the shoulder, weighs nearly a ton, and has palmate antlers that can span 2 m (6.6 ft). In former times, deer were even larger; for example, the extinct great Irish elk [Megaloceros (Megaceros) giganteus] had antlers that stretched 3.3 m (10.8 ft) or more from tip to tip. See also: Artiodactyla; Caribou; Mammalia; Moose
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