Deer with fangs?

5 04 2007

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are EVERYWHERE in New Jersey, and I spotted a small group of about (4 adults + 1 juvenile) this past weekend. This is hardly noteworthy, given that I see more dead deer beside the road than I do live ones most days, but it got me thinking about deer with some formidable dentition. Indeed, the idea of a deer having fangs is a bit absurd, but they do in fact exist. Here’s a photo I took of a Muntjac (aka Fanged Deer) in captivity;

Fanged Deer

This little critter is an artiodactyl belonging to the Family Cervidae, and the males have characteristic fangs that make them easily identifiable. There are larger “primitve” deer animals in Asia (which are bred and hunted for their musk glands, used in perfume) belonging to the Family Moschidae; the Musk Deer. There are 4 species, all belonging to the genus Moschus, and much like the little Muntjac, the males have characteristic fangs growing from their upper lip, but even more impressive than that of their smaller relatives.

This photo of a Musk Deer skull gives you some idea of have impressive their dentition is. Like the common white-tailed deer, they lack teeth at the front of the upper jaw (with the exception of their huge fang, which seems to grow very far back into the skull). Here’s a picture of a Musk Deer in life, looking more like something you’d expect to see in the film Ice Age rather than an extant mammal. Indeed, neither sex grows antlers and they do not travel in groups, this reference citing that males use their fangs in fighting. I’ve never seen such a spectacle, so it is a little difficult to imagine just how such a confrontation would take place. Another photo of a Musk Deer munching on some vegetation in Russia can be found here as well.

I would love to write in more detail about these animals and their evolutionary relationships, but I lack the resources to do anything more than just a cursory write-up at the moment. I expect I’ll be covering these interesting mammals again should I come across more information.



25 responses

5 04 2007
Sarda Sahney

Cool, I never even knew fanged deer existed!

5 04 2007

what the…

My kids are amazed.


28 02 2014


5 04 2007

Yikes. Nice photo!

28 02 2014


5 04 2007
Darren Naish

Your photo is of a muntjac (Muntiacus), not of a water chevrotain (Hyemoschus)!

28 02 2014

Masiive pootand

5 04 2007

D’oh! Thanks for the correction Darren. It should be all fixed now, although I admit I’m a bit embarrassed (I was a bit woozy when I wrote the post and didn’t double check like I should have *smacks forehead*).

28 06 2007
Just what is a Nimravid, anyway? « Laelaps

[…] for carnivores in this particular group, and oddly enough some living herbivores like the Musk Deer have impressive fangs as well. I’m not well-versed in evo-devo, but perhaps studying why musk […]

3 10 2007
What big teeth you have… « Laelaps

[…] life on earth. In some herbivorous creatures, like the extinct Uintatherium and even in the extant Musk Deer, the fangs reflect sexual dimorphism and probably sexual selection, but the sharp teeth don’t […]

11 03 2008

what makes u so sure this is a fang? what is it was just some leftover of somethin he ate, or simple some stick in the deers mouth? i guess this should be studied in more details

16 03 2008

About 25 years ago while serving in the Army, I patrolling within the DMZ in South Korea and I came across a carcuss of a fanged deer. The bone structure was small and maybe weighted in at 75 pounds with flesh and hide. I cut off the head and took it back to base camp. I don’t have the skull anymore, but still have a picture of it with flesh attached. It looked exactly as your skull drawing.

12 05 2008

thats one pretty n beautiful animal ! ! !

12 05 2008

i want one

18 05 2008

Seen these close up and in person because I’m staioned in South Korea in the Army…. odd little thing. They’re kinda mean too.

2 08 2008


5 09 2008

thankgod these things exsist!! i thought i was going crazy as i scooped up my dog and ran!! seems pretty silly now, but vampire deer can give u a fright!!

17 10 2008

As a very young person, I came across a huge number of Nat’l. Geo’s., among which was one re “Deer of the World”. I recall very clearly the image of the little deer with fangs, a wonderful painting. This was around 1942 or so… Haven’t thought about it an awful lot since then, but your article kick-started the curious grey cells. It would be very interesting to do a bit of research on the ancestry of these little animals. How is it that other hooved mammals, presumably evolving from the same type critters, don’t have such noticeable eye teeth? Of course, horses have what are known as “wolf teeth” which occasionally must be removed, as they interfere with a horse’s normal chewing, and camels have teeth that you don’t want to get too near, but neither of these have a truly fang-like appearance… a fascinating conundrum…. and worth a bit of checking into, out of curiosity, if nothing else. My plate is full; does someone want to take this on??

28 12 2009

I actually shot a buck with fangs… not as long as those, but he had fangs on him.

29 08 2011

I have the skull of a large whitetail buck I killed in SW Illinois that has what appear to be canine teeth protruding from its upper jaw. Other than that, it appears to be completely normal.

10 09 2011

thank-you…there was nothing random about this deal !!! jeezee…it was all about a girl ??? sad…sad…sad … on a brighter note…there are decent people in inglewood…

22 01 2012
Karen Shestak

I couldn’t believe it when my brother told me he was making a Europian mount of a vampire deer shot here in Ne.! Maybe Vrginia there is a Santa Claus!

9 02 2013

I have seen a deer with fangs on Mt. Fuji in Japan. It was with a group running alongside my truck as we were driving off road through the woods.

26 07 2013

Wonderful website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of
any community forums that cover the same topics discussed
here? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get comments from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Appreciate it!

25 09 2015

Spot on with this write-up, I seriously feel this website needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read through
more, thanks for the advice!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: