Many species of animals have antlers or horns but not all of them qualify as “deer”. Antelopes are similar to deer in the sense that it has antlers but it’s an entirely different family of species. So what is a deer and what is the world’s largest deer?
A deer is a member of the Cervidae family of herbivore mammals that share some common characteristics such antlers and hooves. In the Cervidae family there are numerous different species, so let’s take a look at the largest ones.
Mule Deer – Odocoileus hemionus
Mule deer are named for their large ears that resemble those of the common mule. These deer are some of the most iconic examples of wildlife in the American West. The tail of mule deer is all-white and short, with a small black tip. Although they were very common in the western areas of North America, mule deer populations are declining. The mule deer has 10 different sub-species. This gentle herbivore has several natural predators such as bobcats, wolves, lynx, bears, eagles, mountain lions and coyotes.
White-tailed Deer – Odocoileus virginianus
The white-tailed deer is one of the most common species of deer on earth. It can be found in a large number of places, including South America, Ecuador, Central America and North America. This species of deer has been introduced into new places such as Europe, New Zealand and the Caribbean. There are currently around five million white-tailed deer in the US state of Texas.
White-tailed deer are one of the most skittish types of deer – swishing their tails back and forth when scared or nervous. They are great swimmers and runners, capable of evading predators easily.
Reindeer – Rangifer tarandus
Reindeer or caribou live above the arctic circle in Greenland, Siberia, Europe and North America. This type of deer are arctic specialists, enduring sub-freezing temperatures with pride and grace. They also have deeply cloven hooves, enormous antlers and excellent furs making them very valuable for humans living in the polar regions.
Elk – Cervus Canadensis
This massive deer can be found in many locations in North America and Europe. Every autumn during the mating season or rut, male elk showcase their large antlers and spar with other males in order to attract females. There are currently around one million elk in North America.
Moose – Alces alces
Moose is world’s largest deer. These enormous animals feature broad antlers that make them very valuable for hunters. The largest recorded moose weighed in at 1,808 lbs!
Unlike other deer species, moose are largely solitary, except for the mating season or rut. Moose can be found in North America as well as in Europe. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Czech Republic have stable moose populations.