Musk deer

As the name suggests, musk deer are responsible for the production of musk, a strong-smelling substance that is one of the most expensive animal products in the world. Unlike true deer of the family Cervidae, the male Siberian musk deer does not possess antlers, but instead has two prominent, tusk-like canine teeth, which protrude below the lower jaw. These grow throughout the deer’s life and may reach up to 10 centimetres in length. The Siberian musk deer has a stocky body, with relatively short, thin front legs and longer, more powerful hind legs. The structure of the legs, the curved spine and large rear, mean that, rather than running, this species moves with a bounding gait. The fur of the Siberian musk deer is long and dense, coloured dark brown on the body, and mostly grey on the head, with some brown areas at the crown and around the long, hare-like ears . The hooves are long, wide and pointed, with the extra surface area helping to keep the deer from sinking into soft ground and snow.

Scent plays an important part in the life history of the Siberian musk deer, hence the male has three kinds of scent gland: the interdigital gland between the toes, the caudal glands at the rear and the musk gland, a smooth, round pod about 3 centimetres wide, located between the genitals and the navel. In an adult male, the musk gland produces about 28 grams of musk, a dark red-brown, waxy substance, the smell of which can be detected by humans at just 1 part in 3,000

Length: 86 – 100 cm
Weight: 15 –17 kg



This shy and timid species is generally solitary. It is active at night, mostly feeding at dusk and dawn, and spends the day resting in the undergrowth. Lichen forms an important part of the Siberian musk deer’s diet, and it may climb inclined trunks up to four metres above the ground to reach it. On average, 0.8 kilograms of lichen is consumed per day and, during the winter, may comprise 99 percent of the deer’s total food intake. Additional winter foods may include small branches, bark, leaves and pine needles, while in summer it may also take grasses, cereals and the leaves of the bilberry and wineberry. The Siberian musk deer does not forage particularly far afield, only ranging over a few kilometres per day, with summer and winter feeding grounds located nearby each other.

During the autumn and winter, communal defecation sites, and their associated scents, are used to help the deer communicate with one another. Scent is also an important indicator of the male Siberian musk deer’s territory, which may cover up to 300 hectares and is marked out by wiping thick, yellow, strong-smelling secretions of the caudal gland on surrounding vegetation. The male’s territory usually contains the feeding ranges of between one to three females and generally, weaker or smaller males will not attempt to enter into it, but on occasions that they do, fighting may ensue.


The musk deer generally occupies forested, mountainous regions. In the Russian Federation it is usually found below altitudes of 1,600 metres, although in some regions it has been recorded at heights of 1,900 to 2,600 metres. It generally prefers north-facing, steep, forested slopes, with rocky areas for rest and refuge from predators. However, in certain parts of its range, the Siberian musk deer will move down into wooded river valleys in the summer, where grassy vegetation is more plentiful.

Methods of hunting permitted for use:

  • stalking,
  • using wheel transport,
  • ambush hunting, corralling,
  • overtaking,
  • using dogs of hunting breeds, except for hounds

Permitted hunting tools:

Hunting firearm with a rifled barrel of caliber not less than 5 mm (but not more than 10 mm) and a seating distance of at least 39 mm (using a caliber of 5.6 mm for a rim-fire cartridge is permitted only for hunting musk deer); hunting fire smooth-bore long-barreled arms, including threaded length no more than 140 mm (only using bullet cartridges); hunting firearm combined weapons (smooth-bore and rifted gun), including with rebarreling and auxiliary rifled barrels; cold bladed hunting weapon. It is allowed to hunt for roe deer, musk deer and fallow deer using buck shot.


Adult males of all musk deer species possess a gland in their abdomen which secrets a pungent, waxy substance called musk – hence the common name “musk deer”. This musk has been highly prized as a base for perfumes, soaps, and medicinal preparations. Because of its varied uses, special properties, and rareness, musk is reputed to be the most expensive animal product available, valued at up to $45,000 (USD) per kilogram. Approximately 28 grams of musk can be obtained from a single musk gland.