The deer family isn’t the largest, but it does have some interesting members. You have the massive moose, white-tailed deer that are popular targets for human hunters, and even sika deer, tiny creatures that weigh a little over 100 pounds. Not every creature called a deer is a member of the family. Some have such small populations that they barely exist in the wild. Concerning those two types of mammals, we’re going to explore the differences between a musk deer and swamp deer. We’ll show you what sets these animals apart from one another, as well as how they fit into the larger deer family.
Comparing a Musk Deer and a Swamp Deer
|Musk Deer||Swamp Deer|
|Size||Weight: 15-40 lbs |
Height: 1.8-2.2 ft
Length: 2.5-3.2 ft
|Weight: 130-620 lbs |
Height: 3.6-3.8 ft
Length: 4.5-6 ft
|Morphology||– Males possess two large fangs that are used in competition with other males|
– Hind legs longer than forelegs
– Dark brown coat that can have lighter brown mixed into it
– Some subspecies have a lighter color on the underside
– Male Siberian deer do not have antlers
– Males have a musk gland for which they are named
|– Yellow-brown coat with a white underside|
– Females have a lighter coloration
– Said to have a wooly coat
– Possess a mane on the neck
– Males have antlers that can have a high number of tines, upwards of 10 to 14 or more.
|Species||– Moschus genus |
– A common variant is Moschus moschiferus, the Siberian musk deer
– Other variants are located in the Himalayas, eastern Asia, and China
– From family Moschidae rather than Cervidae
– Not a true deer
|– Rucervus genus |
– Rucervus duvaucelii
– Also called the barasingha
– Three subspecies exist
– A member of the true deer family
|Range||– Northeast Asia, southwest China, and the Himalayas |
– Found in countries like Russia, India, Nepal, Vietnam, and China
– Prefers to live in forested environments
– Rarely found near human settlements
– Often hunted for its musk gland
|– Has a very small modern range|
– Lives in the Indian subcontinent
– Found in parts of India and Nepal, and may be in Bhutan
– A few hundred live in zoos in North America and Europe
– Population is shrinking due to habitat loss
– Live in grasslands and forests
|Diet||– Survives on lichens, tree bark, tree shoots, honeysuckle, herbaceous plants, and even coniferous needles|
– During the winter, they most often eat lichens
|– Commonly eat grass and aquatic plants|
– They spend much of the day grazing for food
The 5 Key Differences Between a Musk Deer vs. Swamp Deer
The greatest differences between a musk deer and a swamp deer lie in their morphology and size. The musk deer is a mammal that weighs between 15 and 40 pounds, while the swamp deer weighs between 130 and 620 pounds.
The swamp deer is known for having antlers that branch more than most deer antlers, along with a mane in males and a wooly coat of yellow-brown hair. However, the swamp deer has a dark brown coat with a light underside, hind legs that are longer than its forelegs, a musk gland, and two large fangs that they use in competition with other males for breeding and social status.
These significant differences represent the most important ways that these animals are unique from one another. However, they’re not the only ways that humans can tell them apart. Let’s take a closer look at all five ways we can use to differentiate these animals.
Musk Deer vs. Swamp Deer: Size
The swamp deer is far larger than the musk deer, weighing between 130 and 620 pounds, while the musk deer weighs a mere 15 to 40 pounds. The swamp deer also stands taller at 3.6-3.8 feet, while the musk deer only measures up to 2.2 feet tall. Lastly, the swamp deer can grow up to 6 feet, but the musk deer only measures about 3.2 ft in total length.
The size difference is a very simple way to differentiate these animals.
Musk Deer vs. Swamp Deer: Morphology
The musk deer and swamp deer have very different physiology. The musk deer is a small mammal with a unique body, unlike other deer. After all, this animal has two fangs, longer hind legs than forelegs, and musk glands.
However, only males have glands and fangs. The musk deer has a dark brown coat that may have some light brown coloration mixed into it, and they also have a lighter underside in some cases. Musk deer do not possess antlers.
The swamp deer has a yellow-brown coat and branching antlers that can have up to a dozen tines or more. Females have paler hair than males, and their coat is said to be wooly. Aside from these qualities, they’re very similar to other deer but still very different than musk deer.
Musk Deer vs. Swamp Deer: Species
The musk deer is not a true deer, but the swamp deer is a true deer. More specifically, the musk deer is a member of the Moschidae family, not the Cervidae family like the swamp deer. The musk deer is a member of the Moschus genus, and the swamp deer is a member of the Rucervus genus.
Perhaps the most widespread member of this genus is the Siberian musk deer, Moschus moschiferus. However, they are not the only subspecies, though.
The swamp deer is also called the barasingha, and its binomial name is Rucervus duvaucelii. These two creatures are not just different in terms of their bodies, but they are different in terms of their phylogenetic families.
Musk Deer vs. Swamp Deer: Range
The musk deer and the swamp deer have an overlapping portion of their range, but the musk deer have a larger range overall. The musk deer lives in northeast Asia, southwest China, and the Himalayas. They live in Russia, Nepal, India, Vietnam, and China. They prefer to live in forested places, away from human settlements.
The swamp deer has a very small range in the Indian subcontinent. They are found in India and Nepal, but they may also live in Bhutan. A few hundred of them were taken to zoos in North America and Europe. However, they are suffering from a significant population decline due to habitat loss. They also live in grasslands and some forested areas.
The musk deer is frequently hunted for its musk gland, so its population is also shrinking. Thus, these two deer share a small overlapping range, but they aren’t found in every one of the same places.
Musk Deer vs. Swamp Deer: Diet
The musk deer survives mostly on lichens in the winter, but they have a rich diet during the summer months that includes lichens, tree bark, tree shoots, honeysuckle, herbaceous plants, and even coniferous needles. Swamp deer eat grass and aquatic plants, spending most of the day grazing.
All in all, the musk deer and swamp deer are very different creatures. They are completely different sizes, have different species and families, and possess many morphological differences. Telling them apart is a simple matter!
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- Cambridge University Press, Available here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/oryx/article/current-distribution-and-status-of-swamp-deer-rucervus-duvaucelii-duvaucelii-in-the-upper-gangetic-plains-of-north-india/AB45399BD77B75E2D810FE956B21B875
- Cambridge University Press, Available here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/oryx/article/swamp-deer-in-uttar-pradesh/49FB86D699501FEBF5BAD172966C234D
- Environmental Conservation Online System, Available here: https://ecos.fws.gov/ecp/species/7239
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1970) fws.gov/species/musk-deer-moschus
- World Wildlife Fund, Available here: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/musk-deer