Order: Artiodactyla
(Hoofed Mammals)


Family: Cervidae
Family: Antilocapridae
Family: Bovidae

Cervidae - Deer, Elk, Moose and Caribou
    The deer family are large, herbivorousClick word for definition, hoofed animals. They are members of Order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Many are commonly observed and admired for their beauty, and they are primary quarry for hunters. Males in this family grow antlers, while females do not. Caribou are an exception, both males and females grow antlers. Antlers are shed annually, and consist of dermalClick word for definition tissue, basically the same as bone. In the spring when antlers are growing, they are covered by skin and are said to be in "velvet". The skin houses many large blood vessels which allows nutrients to be carried to the growing regions of the antlers. They grow very fast and by late summer to early fall, they reach the maximum size, when the outer skin begins to die. The males then rub their antlers on trees and shrubs "shedding" the dead skin and "polishing" their antlers. Antlers differ from horns in that horns are not shed annually and horns consist of a dermal (boney) core surrounded by permanent epidermalClick word for definition tissue which is hard and is not shed or rubbed off each year as with antlers. After the fall breeding season, and usually well into the winter, the antlers are shed and they grow new ones again the next spring and summer. Does and cows are generally smaller than bucks and bulls. Breeding occurs in the fall, calves and fawns are born.

Antilocapridae - Pronghorn
    The family Antilocapridae only contains a single species in North America, the pronghorn. Its classification is a bit uncertain, but most mammalogists consider it a separate family. Pronghorns are unique in several ways. The horn in males is forked in a forward direction, hence the word "prong" in the name pronghorn. Usually, no prong exists in females. Another unique feature is the fact that the horn consists of a dermal, bone core that is almost bladelike and an outer sheath that is primarily keratinClick word for definition, the same substance found in human fingernails. The unique feature is that this outer sheath is shed annually, a process that is not found in any other "horned" mammals. Pronghorns are known for their speed on foot, and their specific habitat requirement for wide-open spaces. They are very well adapted to their prairie existence.

Bovidae - Goats and Sheep
    Family Bovidae is a large and diverse family that includes our domestic livestock, such as cattle, sheep and goats, and it also includes bison. All males in this family have horns, and some females do. The horn consists of an inner dermal, boney core surrounded by a sheath consisting of keratin. Unlike the pronghorns, this outer sheath is not shed. Bovids are well adapted to a diet of vegetation having high-crowned teeth that tolerate a very wearing diet of grasses and other vegetation, plus their hooves accommodate their climbing ability. They are ruminantsClick word for definition, having a four-chambered digestive system that allows them more complete digestion of their herbivorousClick word for definition diet. The mountain goats and mountain sheep are in this family.


Written by Don Streubel, 2001
Page design by Ean Harker ©2000.