Saber-Toothed Deer Actually Exist

By Christopher Stephens on Friday, July 26, 2013
musk deer
“A wounded deer leaps highest” —Emily Dickinson

In a Nutshell

Sabre-toothed tigers are notorious (and extinct), but another, equally ghoulish saber-toothed animal still exists in the Old World. And it’s not a predator, but a humble herbivore: the musk deer.

The Whole Bushel

Deer tend to have relatively flat teeth, adapted for eating coarse plants. However, the more primitive musk deer form a group of seven ungulate species restricted to Asia. Musk deer are named for their scent gland, but gain far greater prominence by possessing massive canine-like fangs in place of antlers. The fangs may extend up to 10 centimeters (4 in) in length, and not surprisingly, grow the largest in males.

Male musk deer use the intimidating, vampire-like teeth that extend beyond the jawline to resolve mating and territorial disputes. Although “muskies” are herbivores, focusing on lichens and green plants, these primitive relatives of the true deer may also feed on fungi from time to time. The Himalayan musk deer may be found in at high elevations. On occasion, giant pandas may feed on these animals. Siberian musk deer inhabit lowlands instead.

Unfortunately, these awesome and scary-looking freaks of nature are threatened by poaching and illegal demand for their musk. Conservation efforts and anti-poaching methods are essential to prevent the “saber-toothed” deer from going the way of the saber-toothed tiger.

Show Me The Proof

Himalayan Musk Deer
Moschus leucogaster