The largest of the deer, moose can grow as long as 10 feet and weigh as much as 1200 pounds, though females are somewhat smaller. It ranges across the world in northern climates, from Scandinavia to Siberia, Alaska, Canada and the northern USA, often in swamps, spruce forests, and willow and ash thickets. It is easily distinguished by its massive size, large nose and the “bell” flap of skin hanging from its throat. Males grow huge flattened racks of antlers each summer, shedding them in winter.
The moose feeds mostly on woody plants in winter, adding water plants to its diet in summer, often wading in to eat, averaging 44 pounds of wet forage a day. Breeding season occurs in early autumn. Contests between males, in which they put their antlers to good use, are impressively violent, often resulting in multiple wounds, the victor winning mating rights. Gestation lasts 8 months, the female usually giving birth to a single calf, which suckles for about 6 months and remains with her for another year.
Although domestication of moose is problematic, they have been used to carry riders and pull sleighs in Europe and Asia. During Ivan the Terrible’s 16th century conquest of Siberia, moose-mounted riders were considered enough of a threat that moose husbandry was banned. The same century, the city of Dorpat in Estonia banned moose on its streets, presumably because they spook horses. It was probably this reaction that King Karl XI of Sweden had in mind when he considered forming a moose-mounted cavalry regiment.
March 07, 2011