Online Encyclopedia

ELK

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V09, Page 288 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ELK, or MoosE, the largest of all the deer tribe, distinguished from other members of the Cervidae by the form of the antlers of the males. These arise as cylindrical beams projecting on each side at right angles to the middle line of the skull, which after a short distance divide in a fork-like manner. The lower prong of this fork may be either simple, or divided into two or three tines, with some flattening. In the East Siberian elk (Alces machlis bedfordiae) the posterior division of the main fork divides into three tines, with no distinct flattening. In the common elk (A. machlis or A. alces), on the other hand, this branch usually expands into a broad palmation, with one large tine at the base, and a number of smaller snags on the free border; there is, however, a phase of the Scandinavian elk in which the antlers are simpler, and recall those of the East Siberian race. The palmation appears to be more marked in the North American race (A. m. americanus) than in the typical Scandinavian elk. The largest of all is the Alaskan race (A. m. gigas), which is said to stand 8 ft. in height, with a span of 6 ft. across the antlers. The great length of the legs gives a decidedly ungainly appearance to the elk. The muzzle is long and fleshy, with only a very small triangular naked patch below the nostrils; and the males have a peculiar sac, known as the bell, hanging from the neck. From the shortness of their necks, elks are unable to graze, and their chief food consists of young shoots and leaves of willow and birch. In North America during the winter one male and several females form a " moose-yard " in the forest, which they keep open by trampling the snow. Although generally timid, the males become very bold during the breeding season, when the females utter a loud call; and at such times they fight both with their antlers and their hoofs. The usual pace is a shambling trot, but when pressed elks break into a gallop. The female gives birth to one or two young at a time, which are not spotted. In America the elk is known as the moose, and the former name is transferred to the wapiti deer. (R. L.*)
End of Article: ELK
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