Cool Animals: Chevrotain aka the Mouse Deer

Lesser Malay mouse deer Tragulus javanicus in ...I’m reading the animal science book that got me interested in the echidna with my five-year-old right now.  This time another little known (to Westerners) mammal caught my eye.

The chevrotain  [shev-row-tane] is sometimes called the “Mouse Deer.”  Looking at the picture you can see why!  The “deer” part is because they have hooves like a deer’s (or pig’s).  In fact, the chevrotain is the smallest of all animals with hooves.

The asian guys are tiny: only 12in [30cm] high at the shoulder, weighing 4-9lb [2-4kg]. They are fond of forests and grassy areas inside forests from India to the Philippine Islands.

Distribution map of the Water Chevrotain (Hyem...

Distribution map of the Water Chevrotain

Although my book only mentions chevrotains living in Asia, there is also a variety in Africa. Their home is right on the equator from Sierra Leone to the west over to Ghana in the middle.  These African cousins are also called Water Chevrotain. They are bigger (up to 40cm at the shoulder and 15-35lb [7-16kg]) and like to hang out on the banks of rivers.  When danger threatens, they can escape into the water where they can swim away or hold still with just their nose tip sticking out.

All chevrotains are nocturnal.  They live alone and forage near fresh water for fruits and leaves.

Larger Malayan Chevrotain (Tragulus napu)

You can just see the tusks on this Larger Malayan Chevrotain (Tragulus napu) (Photo credit: guppiecat)

Daddy chevrotains have upper tusks that stick out in a curve from their mouths. The moms just have peg-like tusks. What’s odd is, they don’t have any other upper teeth.  It’s a good thing chevrotains don’t have to eat bark and stuff in the Winter!

Mommy chevrotains are actually about 20% bigger than their guys!  Indian chevrotains usually have twins while the rest of them have one baby at a time.

Chevrotains are favorite foods for large cats, snakes, and people.  The amazing thing is that they aren’t yet considered endangered because the areas they live in are stable and they seem to be having enough little ones to keep up population levels.

Mouse Deer, Singapore ZooOne of the coolest things about these animals is the way God designed them to move about in the thick jungle/forest they live in.  You’ve already seen how pointy their noses are.  Then they have small forelegs climbing backwards to powerful and taller hind legs. Their look from the front has been described as either a “torpedo” or a “cone.”  This shape makes it easier for them to push through dense bushes and low plants.

God also gave them special, thickened skin on their throats, sides, and back. The side skin comes in handy when those bushes try to fight back. Their rumps and throats need protection from other chevrotains who want to pick a fight using their tusks (those have to be dads, pulling a stunt like that).

Ultimate Ungulates says, “the water chevrotain is thought to be the most ancestral of the extant tragulids.”

It certainly is “most ancestral,” so are human beings, and sea cucumbers, and… What they actually want us to believe is that living chevrotains go farther back in the evolutionary tree than some of the similar fossilized creatures we’ve found.  Go figure!

Arkive.com (with great pictures) says, “Chevrotains, also known as mouse deer, are the intermediates in appearance between pigs and deer.”

Talk about saying something obvious!  The reason they point this out is most of the “tree of life” has been put together based on how much alike animals and plants look.

Reference.com says, “Although they are also called mouse deer, chevrotains are not closely related to true deer, and are classified in a family of their own.”

Well, we are in complete agreement on that one!

So God made every kind of animal. He made the wild animals, the tame animals, and all the small crawling things. And God saw that this was good.  Genesis 1:25 Easy-to-read Version

Other websites I used:

Encyclopedia Britannica: Chevrotain

Ultimate Ungulate: Water Chevrotain

The Website of Everything: Indian spotted chevrotains

If you want to know lots more about the African chevrotain, check out wild about you.com (they didn’t even have one word about their supposed Evolution!)

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