Moschidae – Musk Deer
Check out this family of saber-toothed deer!
The Moschidae are a family of seven different species of musk deer, all of which live in eastern Asia, from Siberia down through China and south toward Vietnam.
Musk deer are unlike other “true deer” in several ways such as lacking antlers, having only 2 teats (rather than 4), and having long dewclaws (like back “toes” on each hoof) that reach almost to the ground to aid in balance on rocky terrain.
Of course the most noticeable difference is their long tusks!
Both male and female musk deer have these elongated canine teeth, but only the males’ are so long that they are visible from a distance, extending outside of the mouth. Male musk deer lack antlers, but they use their tusks to fight off rivals, often standing up and facing each other belly-to-belly, trying to gash their opponent’s head, neck, and shoulders.
Musk deer have one other characteristic that has caused their numbers to dwindle to something like thirty percent of their original population. Males possess a musk gland on their underbellies that produces an oily secretion that is worth thousands of dollars per ounce. At one time hundreds of thousands of musk deer were being slaughtered per year in order to collect their musk, as attempts to raise the animals in captivity have proven ineffective for this purpose. In the wild, the scent is used to warn off rivals and perhaps to confuse predators, especially during the November-December rutting season.
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