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Musk Deer

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Last updated date: 25th Jul 2024
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What is Musk Deer?

About Musk Deer- Musk deer can refer to any of the seven species that make up the genus Moschus, the only living genus of the Moschidae family. Despite their widespread name, they are not similar to other deer species belonging to the Cervidae family.  Musk deer get their name from a gland called the pod that develops in the skin of their abdomens in the males. Males may employ a waxy substance called musk produced by this gland to attract females. As for the question of musk deer is found in which region, the musk deer is a cautious, isolated mammal that lives in high regions from Siberia to the Himalayas. And hence they are also referred to as Siberian Musk Deer. Let us learn more about the origin and the anatomy of the Musk animal that is the Siberian Musk Deer. 

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About Musk Animal 


Characteristics and Features





Scientific Name Of Musk Deer

Moschus moschiferus





Body Length 

86-100 cm / 2.8-3.3 ft.

Shoulder Height

52-55 cm / 20.5-21.5 inches.

Tail Length of the Siberian Musk Deer

4-6 cm / 1.6-2.4 in.

Weight of the Siberian Musk Deer

11-18 kg / 24-40 lb.


Male is referred to as Buck or Stag. the females are called Doe or Hind and the baby musk deer is called Fawn. 

 Anatomy of Musk Animal 

  • History and Evolution- Musk deer are the sole living members of the Moschidae family, which has a 25-million-year fossil record dating back to the late Oligocene. Until the late Miocene, the group was widespread across Eurasia and North America, but it suffered a significant collapse, with no Pliocene fossils and Moschus as the only genus since the Pleistocene. The genus Moschus has been traced back to the Late Miocene (Turolian) of Lufeng, which is located in China. 

  • Distinguishing Feature of the Musk Deer- Musk deer are distinct from other deer species. They have a mix of primitive like long tusks, no antlers and advanced large tusks, antlers and a four-chambered stomach. Musk deer, unlike other Cervidae, have gallbladders. 

  • Distribution and Habitat- Musk deer can also be found in China, Korea, Myanmar, and Vietnam; in the Himalayas, they can be found in Bhutan, China, India, and Nepal. The Altai Mountains mark the western limit of their range. Musk deer can also be found in the southern Siberian mountains to the east. The musk deer range stretches from the crests of Siberia's and eastern Siberia's mountain ranges to the Japan and Okhotsk Seas' coastlines. 

Musk deer can be found mostly on mountain slopes and terraces, as well as foothills, mountain valleys, and riverbank escarpments. At altitudes ranging from 1,300 to 14,400 feet (400 to 4,400 metres), ecosystems can be found. Musk deer are found in dense coniferous and broadleaved forests with dense undergrowth. Solitary rocks or rock pendants with steep escarpments where musk deer can remain inaccessible when necessary.

  • The Agility of the Musk Animal- Musk deer have an asymmetric appearance, with a hefty rump, banded back, and sloped withers, due to their large and strong hind legs and shorter and weaker forelegs. The animals' movement is limited by their unique body structure, they can only walk or hop and never run. Musk deer, despite their exceptional speed, weary after only 200-300 metres. Musk deer may run like rabbits, landing with their hind legs in front of their front legs. 

  • Diet and Eating Habits- Musk deer, like other ungulates that eat concentrated fodder, are choosy in their diet, sedentary, defend their home areas, and have a high reproductive rate. Their daily rhythm of feeding and rest alternates up to 12 times. Musk deer consume lichens, forbs, leaves, flowers, moss, pine needles, shoots, twigs, and grass in the forest. They only eat a tiny amount of food at a time, which reduces the amount of strain on the plant and allows them to return to the same feeding location multiple times. Musk deer may also reach leaves by standing on their hind legs or climbing on bent trunks. 

  • Physical Features of Musk Deer- The preputial gland is a protrusion of preputial skin with a distinct orifice that surrounds the mouth and has two layers of glands (inner and outer). Secretion begins when males are 8–9 months old, and by the time they are 15 to 16 months old, their sac is full of secretion. When the sac is full, the largest amount of secretion occurs from May to June. In addition, the discharge contains epithelial cells from the sac's inner layer, as well as bacterial masses. The sac is filled with a powerfully odorous, granular, reddish-brown substance after a brief period of ripening. This secretion of the preputial gland causes females to become estrus and is crucial in the mating process. 

Musk deer have numerous fragrance glands on their nose mirrors, pre-orbital, tarsal, metatarsal, circum anal, tail basement, upper and lateral tail surfaces, and hind leg shanks. The secretion of all of these glands is vital in animal communication, home range marking, individual differentiation (mainly nose glands), and sexual partner stimulation.

  • Behavioural Characteristics-  Musk deer are herbivores who prefer to live in steep, forested areas remote from human settlement. Musk deer live in solitude and are sedentary, remaining in their native regions all year and never migrating. Natural margins such as hill crests and rivulets serve as home range boundaries. Feeding trials, watering stations, and resting areas, as well as excrement and urine areas, are all available. Musk Animal seek shelter under branching trees or projecting rocks during inclement weather. Year-round, they mark their home range with secretions from their nasal and tail glands, urine and pellets, and scraping the ground with their hooves, which are also equipped with odorous glands. Musk deer use the same latrines for pooping over and over (never to urinate). Predators cannot access their home habitat, which consists of rocky escarpments (typically small patches 8–16 in [20–40 cm] wide). Animals hide under thickets, under slanting trees, and among mounds of wooden garbage if they can't find a way out. A male's home range overlaps with the home ranges of numerous does.

  • Mating Season of the Musk Deer- During mating season, males' urine contains a high concentration of musk, which leaves dark pink or crimson streaks on the snow. Three or four animals form a group during the rut (mating season). Males begin battles that aren't really ferocious. Musk deer have good vision and hearing, but they communicate mostly through olfaction due to their keen sense of smell. When disturbed, musk deer either remain still or leap to safety.

  • Reproduction Cycle- Musk deer is a polygamous species with a high reproduction rate, and twins and even triplets are not uncommon. From November to January, the mating season varies depending on location and altitude. Fawning occurs in May–June after a gestation period of 178–198 days. During the rutting season, males abandon their territories and compete for mates, using their tusks as weapons. After roughly 150–180 days, female musk deer give birth to a single fawn. For the first month of their existence, the newborn young are very small and practically inert, which helps them stay concealed from predators. Calves or the baby musk deer are born in secret locations and will suckle for the first time in 25 to 30 minutes. Newborn baby musk deer will weigh between 15.5 and 16.6 ounces or about 440 to 470 grams.

Nursing usually lasts three to four months. A calf is only nursed once every five days at the end of this phase. Calves under the age of three months hide and do not follow their mother. Females become sexually mature and capable of mating in their first year, and little ones grow swiftly.

  • Relationship With Humans- Musk is highly regarded in Chinese medicine, where it is utilised for supposed health benefits, inflammatory treatment, fever treatment, and the production of soaps and perfumes. Musk can pay $24,000–45,000 for 2.2 pounds for cosmetic and purported medicinal benefits (1 kg). Japan imports 220–1,650 lb (100–750 kilogrammes) of musk every year, while China imports 1,100–2,200 lb (500–1,000 kilogramme) and Taiwan imports 77 lb (35 kg) and 290 lb Republic of Korea (130 kg). Since 1958, a slew of farms in China has sprouted up where musk deer are produced and musk can be extracted from the preputial sac without harming the animal.

  • Threat and Conservation Status of Musk Animal- Musk deer are the source of musk, a scent that has been in high demand for almost 5,000 years. In 1855, some 81,200 sacs were shipped from Russia to China via Kyakhta. After barely a short time, 100,000 sacs were brought to Japan in a single year. As a result, in 1927, just 5,089 sacs were gathered. Hunting for musk, which is now utilised in medications and perfumes, is still the greatest threat to this species. And as time went on, the population of these animals began to decline. The murder of the animal for its musk, which is used in medicine and perfume, has drastically reduced the population of Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), a species that was once abundant. It is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN that is the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Hunting pressure has been reduced thanks to a high reproduction rate, a hidden manner of existence, and breeding on farms. The remaining three musk deer species are classified as Least Concern that is due to lower risk and Near Threatened.

Interesting and Fun Facts About Musk Deer 

  1. Deer are animals that have long been associated with numerous civilizations and mythology all across the world. 

  2. Lascaux's famed cave paintings display a rich, imaginative canvas of horses, deer, and other animals dating back roughly 17,000 years.

  3. They previously adorned many of the flags, banners, and coats-of-arms of mediaeval Europe as a symbol of strength and dignity.

  4. Musk deer lichen is their main source of food, which they obtain by climbing bent tree trunks to heights of up to 4 metres. This species consumes roughly 0.8 kilogrammes of lichen for each individual.

  5. Musk is an extremely valued material obtained from musk deer. In Nepal, for example, musk was more expensive than gold in 1972.

  6. Despite the fact that musk deer are abundant and widely dispersed mammals with significant economic value, this species has only been studied seriously since the middle of the 1980s.

  7. Only one of these creatures' four stomachs is utilised, while the others are "fake stomachs." Like cows, they chew their cud to digest their food.

  8. Deer can dwell in practically any sort of habitat, although they prefer to be near "edges," which are man-made or naturally occurring transitional zones between woodlands and croplands.

  9. When these animals detect a potential threat, they raise their tails to send a warning signal to the rest of the population.

FAQs on Musk Deer

1. What is the Purpose of Musk Deer Hunting?

Answer. Despite conservation rules that allow for a regulated and managed legal hunt and trade, musk deer populations in some parts of Russia and Mongolia are fast diminishing as a result of poaching for highly valued musk pods, which are highly valued all around the world and more so in the traditional Asian medicine. Musk deer is a game animal in most of Russia's musk deer-populated areas. It is primarily sought for the secretions of the preputial glands; the musk is utilised in perfumery and eastern medicine.

2. How is Musk Deer Musk Extracted?

Answer. For every male deer, three to five musk deer are trapped and slaughtered. Because each kilogramme of musk requires an average of 40 male deer with adequately large glands, this entails the slaughter of approximately 160 deer. Mongolia and North Vietnam are two countries that share a border. The musk pod is usually obtained by trapping male deer in the wild and slaughtering them. When the reddish-brown paste within the musk pod dries, it transforms into a black granular substance known as "musk grain," which is then tinctured with alcohol. 

3. Is it True that Musk Deer are Aggressive?

Answer. The findings revealed that imprisoned male musk deer engage in aggressive dominance behaviour, which establishes a stable social ranking. Ones with higher levels of hostility should not be enclosed with deer with similar inclinations, but rather with individuals with lower levels of fighting. Because deer have a natural impulse to flee from danger, they rarely come into direct touch with humans. They should, however, be approached with caution due to their size and antlers. Larger animals, including moose, have been known to injure people.

4. How Do You Know if a Deer Musk is Genuine?

Answer. Synthetic musks have been used in perfumery and aroma since the late 1800s, but with the prohibition on obtaining musk from musk deer and sperm whales, as well as a trend toward lessening the usage of animal musks, synthetic musks took off in the 1990s. Knowing what a real musk smells like vs. fake musk (all forms of synthetic ones) or performing a lab test is the best approach to identify and distinguish this. Angelica oil is the other option that is considered the next best.