Alpine musk deer
Illustration of an Alpine musk deer
CITES Appendix I (CITES)[2][note 1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Moschidae
Genus: Moschus
M. chrysogaster
Binomial name
Moschus chrysogaster
Hodgson, 1839

The Alpine musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) is a musk deer species native to the eastern Himalayas in Nepal, Bhutan and India to the highlands of Tibet.[1]

The Alpine musk deer recorded in the Himalayan foothills is now considered a separate species, the Himalayan musk deer.[3]

It is the state animal of Uttarakhand.[4]


The Alpine musk deer belongs to the family Moschidae. This family is part of a clade that includes Bovidae, and Cervidae, which is a sister group to Giraffidae, who are all clustered together with Ruminatia under the order Artiodactyla.[5] Recent studies have shown a relation between Artiodactyls and Cetaceans, combining them into the order Certiodactyla.[6]

Two subspecies are recognized:


The Alpine musk deer is a small deer (40–60 cm tall) with long upper canines that do not hide within the mouth. It is named for having an externally visible musk sac between male testes. Its fangs grow during mating season and are used for sparring with other males.[7] Alpine musk deer have a larger body size compared to other musk deer.[8]

Distribution and habitat

The Alpine musk deer inhabits coniferous and deciduous forests in the mountain regions of western China, Tibet, Sichuan and Gansu at elevations of 3,000–5,000 m (9,800–16,400 ft).[1][8] In Nepal, it occurs in Khaptad, Sagarmatha, Shey-Phoksundo, Langtang, Makalu Barun National Parks, Annapurna, Kanchenjunga Conservation Areas and Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve.[9] In eastern Bhutan's Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, it has been recorded at an elevation of 3,730–4,227 m (12,238–13,868 ft) in 2015.[10]

Mountain caves and shrubs form ideal habitat.[6] In southwestern China's Baima Xueshan Nature Reserve, the Alpine musk deer favours oak shrubs, oak forests and open canopy cover.[11]

Behavior and ecology

The Alpine musk deer is a ruminant herbivore, foremost a browser and feeds mainly on forbs, grasses, moss, lichens, and shoots, leaves and twigs of shrubs.[12]

Males compete for resources and social rank. Those with the highest rank have primary access to resources such as food, shelter, territory and reproductive rights. Both captive and wild musk deer compete for resources, exhibited in aggressive interactions, during which they butt each other's heads and spray musk as a show of strength and territory marking. Establishing a hierarchy among herd animals often results in physical injury or death for the individuals involved. Captive musk deer show lower intensity of aggression. This involves threatening, displacing and ritual displays. In cases of higher intensity of aggression, a resolution to the conflict is only reached when one deer shows ritual submission, dies or runs away as a form of displacement by the victor.[7]

The mating season of Alpine musk deer is late November and the birth season is from June to July. Since they are solitary animals, observing them in captivity is difficult.[7]


The main threat to the Alpine musk deer is poaching for its musk, which is used in cosmetic products.[1] Poaching and continued demand for musk is the main threat in Nepal and Uttarakhand.[9][13] Musk is also used in Asian medicine. Due to illegal hunting and habitat loss, the Alpine musk deer has become an endangered species in China.[7] Habitat destruction lead to reduction of hiding places and increased predation access to the musk deer.[6] Due to human interference the habitat of the Alpine musk deer has been fragmented and isolated.[8] Japan has always been the largest importer of musk.[14]

Musk is used in different pharmaceutical products. Even though a synthetic musk has been developed, it hasn't completely replaced the use of natural musk, and the demand is increasing even outside of Asia.[citation needed] The Alpine musk deer has been hunted for centuries, but the introduction of guns in the last century lead to increased hunting. The use of snare traps takes a toll on the species, although it is not a target species. Since the demand for musk has increased internationally the supply from musk deer farms has been exceeded, putting even more pressure on the wild population.[citation needed]


In 1958, musk deer farms were started in China. By the early 1980s, these farms kept about 3,000 musk deer. Since many of these farms were not successful, only a few breeding centers keep and raise Alpine musk deer since the 1990s.[14] There is however little evidence whether and to which extent these farms contributed to the conservation of the species.[15][16]

In captivity

Since the Alpine musk deer is a solitary, and shy species, it is difficult to breed in captivity.[14] Reports from Chinese musk deer farms show a high mortality rate for captive deer from the wild. Average lifespan in captivity is less than 4 years, opposed to 7–8 years in the wild. Behavioral studies of captive and wild deer have shown a low rate of domestication in captive deer and high success of releasing deer back into the wild who were born in captivity.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d Harris, R. (2016). "Moschus chrysogaster". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T13895A61977139. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T13895A61977139.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Appendices | CITES". Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  3. ^ Groves, C. P.; Yingxiang, W.; Grubb, P. (1995). "Taxonomy of Musk-Deer, Genus Moschus (Moschidae, Mammalia)". Acta Theriologica Sinica. 15 (3): 181–197.
  4. ^ "Facts of Uttaranchal". Archived from the original on 2013-07-15. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  5. ^ Grubb, P. (2005). "Moschus chrysogaster". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 637–722. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  6. ^ a b c Yang, C.; Xiang, C.; Zhang, X.; Yue, B. (2013). "The Complete Mitochondrial Genome of the Alpine Musk Deer (Moschus chrysogaster)". Mitochondrial DNA. 24 (5): 501−503. doi:10.3109/19401736.2013.770504. PMID 23577614. S2CID 12772830.
  7. ^ a b c d Meng, X.; Cody, N.; Gong, B.; Xiang, L. (2012). "Stable fighting strategies to maintain social ranks in captive male Alpine Musk Deer: Captive Musk Deer behavior". Animal Science Journal. 83 (8): 617−622. doi:10.1111/j.1740-0929.2011.01007.x. PMID 22862933.
  8. ^ a b c Zhixiao, L. & Helin, S. (2002). "Effect of Habitat Fragmentation and Isolation on the Population of Alpine Musk Deer". Russian Journal of Ecology. 33 (2): 121−124. doi:10.1023/a:1014456909480. S2CID 6390827.
  9. ^ a b Aryal, A.; Raubenheimer, D.; Subedi, S. & Kattel, B. (2010). "Spatial habitat overlap and habitat preferences of Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschus chrysogaster) in Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal". Current Research Journal of Biological Sciences. 2: 217–225.
  10. ^ Tobgay, S.; Wangdi, T.; Dorji, K. (2017). "Recovery of Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster Hodgson, 1839 (Artiodactyla: Moschidae) in Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, Bhutan". Journal of Threatened Taxa. 9 (11): 10956–10958. doi:10.11609/jott.3280.9.11.10956-10958.
  11. ^ Li, X.; Buzzard, P.; Jiang, X. (2013). "Habitat associations of four ungulates in mountain forests of southwest China, based on camera trapping and dung counts data". Population Ecology. 56: 251–256. doi:10.1007/s10144-013-0405-2. S2CID 17968214.
  12. ^ Green, M.J.B. (1987). "Some ecological aspects of a Himalayan population of musk deer". In C.M. Wemmer (ed.). The Biology and Management of Cervidae. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 307−319.
  13. ^ Ilyas, O. (2015). "Status, habitat use and conservation of Alpine musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) in Uttarakhand Himalayas, India". Journal of Applied Animal Research. 43 (1): 83−91. doi:10.1080/09712119.2014.899495. S2CID 84858787.
  14. ^ a b c Yang, Q.; Meng, X.; Xia, L.; Feng, Z. (2003). "Conservation status and causes of decline of musk deer (Moschus spp.) in China" (PDF). Biological Conservation. 109 (3): 333−342. doi:10.1016/s0006-3207(02)00159-3.
  15. ^ Parry-Jones, R.; Wu, J.Y. (2001). Musk Deer Farming as a Conservation Tool in China. Hong Kong: Traffic East Asia.
  16. ^ Green, M.J.B.; Taylor, P.M.; Xu, H.F.; Yin, F. & Lee, S.K.H. (2007). Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem? Assessing the Role of Captive Breeding for Conservation of Wild Populations of Animals Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Hong Kong: Traffic East Asia.
  17. ^ Leilei, X.; Qingbin, L.; Xiuxiang, M. (2011). "Preliminary studies on the behavioral assessment of the domestication degree of captive Alpine Musk Deer". Pakistan Journal of Zoology. 43 (4): 751−757.


  1. ^ Only populations of Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. All other populations are included in Appendix II.