1) The Deer Family Includes 47 Different Species
In your neighborhood in the United States, it is likely that when you think of “Deer” you envision White Tail Deer as they are the most prominent species. You may be interested to know that the Deer family includes 47 different species that include Elk, Caribou, Wapiti, and Moose. Each species of deer display different physical characteristic, however, each species has cloven hooves.
The name wapiti translates from the Shawnee language to mean “white rump” and are also sometimes referred to as American Elk. Though called American Elk the species also is found in New Zealand.
2) There is a Wide Variety of Sized Among Deer Species
Today, deer range from very large to very small. The smallest species of deer is the Southern padu with its average weight being about 20 lbs. and its height is only 14″. The southern padu’s size is about that of a cocker spaniel dog.
Though Moose are the largest of today’s deer species, the Irish deer, thought to be extinct for 11,000 years, could reach a height of 7 feet from hooves to shoulder, and its antlers spanned up to 12 feet. In comparison, today’s moose can reach a height of 5 to 6 feet at the shoulder. Whitetail deer average between 2.5″ tall for females and 3.5″ tall for males.
3) Not Every Species of Deer has Antlers
46 of the deer species of the world have antlers, theChinese water deer being the single species with no antlers. Also, caribou is the only species in which the male and female animal both have antlers.
Deer antlers grow from boney supporting structures called pedicels and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. For example, muntjacs display single short, spiked antlers while moose have wide, flat antlers. The reindeer species have the largest and heaviest antlers. The tiny southern padu deer have the lightest antlers.
In general, in the social hierarchy of each species’ herd, the larger the antler the more dominant the animal. Male deer utilize their antlers for combat to establish dominance over the other males of the herd. Generally, the male with the largest, heaviest antlers maintains herd’s the dominant position. Interestingly, there is some evidence of a correlation between antler size and the general health of a deer. Males with larger antlers relative to body size tend to have increased resistance to disease.