The moose in a nutshell

Take this section as "Executive Summary" for the readers with little time 
or those not interested in depth

Click on the logos on the left to come to the detailed section - more additional sections on the left navigation bar as usual.

  Main figures  

  • General facts
    • Largest member of the deer family
    • Bulls can reach a weight of up to 825kg (500-825kg)
    • Shoulder height up to 250 cm (160-250 cm)
    • Body length up to 350 cm (250-350 cm)
    • Cows are in average 20% smaller and lighter than bulls
  • Some details
    • Very short tail (7-12 cm)
    • Long-legded to step over obstacles - important to escape predators
    • Hump at the shoulders - mainly muscles to hold the head
    • Overhanging muzzle - the moose's trademark - perfect for feeding foliage - also called "muffle" - maybe originating from the German "Muffel"
    • Hair and skin hanging from the throat - called bell - serves mating season purposes
    • Usually brownish-black, differences between species and season, European moose with white legs
    • Long, air-filled coat hair - 10-25 cm long, changed April-June
    • Life span of 27 years in captivity, 5-16 years in nature
    • Spends time with 40% chewing cud, 40% eating and 20% sleep
  • Senses
    • 25 cm long, rotatable ears give excellent hearing sense
    • Important nosing sense with special area for analyzing the cows readiness for mating
    • Not so developped eyes, no red-green differentiation, but fairly good in darkness


  • General facts
    • Herbivore, i.e. plant eater
    • Ruminant
    • Can eat 15-50kg per day
    • Feeding up to 10-12 hours a day
    • "Browser", as they browse on twigs
  • Food range
    • Twig ends, leaf, roots, bark
    • Preferably willows, but also white birch, balsam fir, trembling aspen, black poplar, hazle, dogwood, maple
    • Berries, apples, wildflowers, lichens, bushes, seeds, ferns, mushrooms, tubers, sedges and grass
    • Aquatic vegetation: Water lily, water shield, pondweed
  • Some more details
    • Can eat under-water due to their specialized muzzle, dive up to 6 m deep
    • Needs minerals- salt licks, aquatic vegetation ...
    • Have big liver to cope with toxic secondary plant compounds
    • Bulls don't feed during mating time


  • Main Facts
    • The antlers - reserved to bulls - are up to 2,1m wide
    • Up to 36kg heavy
    • Up to 15 ends
    • Size varies depending on habitat: European smaller and Northern larger than Southern
  • Growth
    • During growth covered with a soft skin called velvet
    • Shed every year in mid December
    • New antlers start growing in April, maximum size August/September
  • Fight, Sparring and mating
    • Symbol off power - important for mating- the biggest antlers win by visual show
    • Seldomly in real fight, but if it occurs mostly uncritical wounds occur
    • Sparring is common between bulls before the real "show-down"

  Mating and offspring  

  • Breeding season September/October, about 3-5 weeks
  • Oligatory signals (e.g. urine on bell) and calls are used for finding each other
  • Mating "event" takes just 2-5 seconds
  • Gestation period ~231 days, Birth in May/June
  • 1-2 offspring, depending on the mother's age and food supply
  • Calves eat huge amounts of rich mother milk, and very fast also normal food
  • Fully protected by very defensive mother
  • Calves can run and swim within just a few days
  • Calves weigh 120-200 kg already in autumn
  • Time to offspring independance ~12 months
  • Sexual maturity of male and femals ~ 2 years


  • Excellent swimmers
  • Swims even out on oceans for kilometers and can be attacked by killer whales
  • Can swim 10-20 km non-stop with up to 8 km/h
  • Fast sprinters - up to 60 km/h
  • No problems with rough surface with obstacles due to their long legs
  • Mastering obstacles heights of 60-90cm and snow up to 50 cm -> Escape from predators !
  • Usually walk slowly and calmy with 10 km/h
  • Deep snow causes a real problem for them, as they cannot escape any more


  • "Moose" comes from Algonquin Indians, "mos" meaning twig-eaters
  • Scientific name "Alces Alces"




  • Forested areas with lakes or ponds
  • Taiga, forest tundra, temperate forest and rainforest, boreal and subarctic zones
  • Zones with summer temperatures averaging 15 C, not exceeding 27C for long
  • Approximate limits : 50th parallel to 67th parallel
  • Home range of 10-250 km, depending on food supply
  • Sub-species - classic science
    • 9 different sub-species, from which one is extinct
    • 4 sub-species in Eurasia, 4 in North-America
    • Differentiation by discoverer and area
  • New viewpoint today: Only two real sub-species:
    • European/ West Siberian Moose (Alces Alces Alces)
    • East Siberian / North American Moose (Alces Alces Americanus)
    • Differentiation determined by environment

  Enemies and Defense   

  • Enemies
    • Prey to bears and wolves, seldomly lynx and wolverine
    • Most threatened: Calves, only 2/3 survive their first year (prey/environment)
    • Wolve packs have good chance to win in deep snow and with old/ill moose
  • Defense
    • Moose kick with front- and back-legs - leathal weapons
    • Mainly try to escape- good chance due to long legs (predators muts walk around obstacles)
    • Moose can surround enemies, hide, and perfectly detect them early enough
    • Seek roads and rails during snow-time: Faster escape in low snow
  • Environmental and parasite related threats
    • Quite well suited for winter time, nevertheless hard time
    • Winter ticks, meningeal worm and giant liver fluke often cause death

  Human Interaction  

  • Hunting was and is common: Moose was nearly extinct in many areas
  • Today moose population seems stabilized by nature preserve
  • Road and rail traffic causes many moose deaths, as animals seek trails in winter
  • Domestication has been tried and works hardly well (diseases, food requirements)
  • Tries have been performed to use moose as mounts for riding in armies
  • Moose can get tame just as overdimensioned dogs