By Russell Thornberry
The North American deer family includes white-tailed, black-tailed and mule deer, elk, caribou, reindeer and moose. The sizes of the members of this big family range from a mere 100-pound Coues whitetail at the small end of the spectrum to the largest of all members of the deer family, the Alaska/Yukon moose, which reaches 1,600 pounds or more.
So, what do all the members of the deer family have in common?
Several things. They all grow antlers that they shed in the late winter. With the exception of caribou and reindeer, only the males grow antlers. Female caribou and reindeer grow small antlers.
All members of the deer family are ruminants, which means they have 4-compartment stomachs and chew their cud like cattle. They all have cloven hooves, which means their hooves are split into two sections. And none of the deer family have upper incisor teeth. That means that they have bottom front teeth but no front teeth on their upper jaws. However, they have molars (jaw teeth) on the upper and lower jaws.
All members of the deer family have hollow hair, which insulates against cold weather. Cows, horses, buffalo and goats, unlike the members of the deer family, have solid hair.
So, a moose might look nothing like a white-tailed deer, but they are cousins with all these things in common.