1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Musk-deer

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MUSK-DEER (Moschus moschiferus), an aberrant member of the deer family constituting the sub-family Cervidae Moschinae (see Deer). Both sexes are devoid of antler appendage; but in this the musk-deer agrees with one genus of true deer (Hydrelaphus), and as in the latter, the upper canine teeth of the males are long and sabre-like, projecting below the chin, with the ends turned somewhat backwards. In size the muskdeer is rather less than the European roe-deer, being about 20 in. high at the shoulder. Its limbs, especially the hinder pair, are long; and the feet remarkable for the great development of the lateral pair of hoofs and for the freedom of motion

The Musk-deer (Moschus moschiferus).

they all present, which must be of assistance to the animal in steadying it in its agile bounds among the crags of its native haunts. The ears are large, and the tail rudimentary. The hair covering the body is long, coarse, and of a peculiarly brittle and pith-like character, breaking easily; it is generally of a greyish-brown colour, sometimes inclined to yellowish-red, and often variegated with lighter patches. The musk-deer inhabits the forest districts in the Himalaya as far west as Gilgit, always, however, at great elevations—being rarely found in summer below 8000 ft. above the sea-level, and ranging as high as the limits of the thickets of birch, rhododendron and juniper, among which it mostly conceals itself in the daytime. The range extends into Tibet, Siberia and north-western China; but the musk-deer of Kansu has been separated as a distinct species, under the name of M. sifanicus. Muskdeer are hardy, solitary and retiring animals, chiefly nocturnal in habits, and almost always found alone, rarely in pairs and never in herds. They are exceedingly active and surefooted, having perhaps no equal in traversing rocks and precipitous ground; and they feed on moss, grass, and leaves of the plants which grow on the mountains.

Most mammals have certain portions of the skin specially modified and provided with glands secreting odorous and fatty substances characteristic of the particular species. The special gland of the musk-deer, which has made the animal so well known, and has proved the cause of unremitting persecution to its possessor, is found in the male only, and is a sac about the size of a small orange, situated beneath the skin of the abdomen, the orifice being immediately in front of the preputial aperture. The secretion with which the sac is hlled is dark brown or chocolate in colour, and when fresh of the consistence of “ moist gingerbread,” but becoming dry and granular after keeping (see Musk). The Kansu (M. sifanicus) differs from the typical species in having longer ears, which are black on the outer surface.