Difference Between Elk and Deer

Elk vs Deer

Elks are members of the deer family, which means that there are many similarities between them. However, the differences are also noticeable with variation in body sizes and geographical distribution being prominent. This article aims to discuss some additional differences between elk and deer, which are important to notice.


Elk, Cervus Canadensis, aka Wapiti, is an even-toed ungulate with an enormous body. In fact, they are the second largest of all the deer family members, and their height measures more than 2.5 metres at shoulders. Males, called bulls or stags, grow larger with a bodyweight that goes as high as 480 kilograms, while females, known as cows or hinds, reach almost 300 kilograms of weight. They live in forests, as well as, the habitats along the edges of the forests. Their shaggy neck and mane are important features for identification. According to the climate, elks change their colour and the thickness of the coat. In winter, the coat gets lightly coloured and thicker, while it is dark tanned with short fur in the summer. Their neck is dark and the rump is white in colour. They are social animals living in herds. However, one single female dominates the herd, i.e. these are matriarchal herds as in elephants. During their mating period, bulls make repeated high pitch vocalizations those are characteristic for them. Males have widely branching antlers with about one metre span in dendritic configuration, and they shed those in late fall after mating. The antlers regrow every year at very high rate of more than 2 centimetres per day. However, upon mating, the hinds get pregnant and the gestation period lasts for 240 – 260 days. The newborn calves have spots as in many deer species and disappear by the end of summer. A healthy elk lives about 15 years, but sometimes there are records of 25-year olds.


Deer are a main group mammals including over 60 living species, described under several genera including Muntiacus, Elaphodus, Dama, Axis, Rucervus, Cervus, and few more. They have been naturally distributed in all the continents except Antarctica and Australia. Their bodyweights vary in a broad spectrum, which is usually from 10 to 250 kilograms. However, there are big-made species such as moose and elk with bodyweights reaching almost 500 kilograms. Deer are herbivorous animals, and mainly browsers. Moreover, they select their feed to be more nutritious. Deer are ruminants, i.e. they have a four-chambered stomach, called rumen, that lets the food through a thorough process of digestion and absorption of nutrients very efficiently. They live in herds and browse together, which is an adaptation for the protection from their predators; one can watch out for the predators while others are browsing and this way they will know when there is a predator around. Usually, they can reproduce at a very high rate, and only the mother provides parental care for the fawns. Most of the deer antlers are long, forked, curved, and pointed. These are very important in fighting and show-off features of males. Deer are useful in many human activities including in game and meat hunting, indigenous medicine, and farming.

What is the difference between Elk and Deer?

· Deer is a group of mammals of the Family: Cervidae that includes more than 60 extant species, whereas elk is one of them.

· Elk is the second largest among all deer species. Additionally, the average bodyweight range of deer does not even come close to that of elk.

· Deer have a wide geographical distribution, while elk is restricted to Western North America and Central Eastern Asia.

· The rate of growth of antlers is very high in elks compared to many of the deer species.