Elk vs. Deer

Elk vs. Deer

Elk and deer are types of hoofed mammals that belong to the deer family. They originate from North America and Asia. Elk and deer are herbivores. Their stomach is designed for re-chewing the food (animals called ruminants). Males of both elk and deer can be recognized by large antlers that last from spring to the autumn (until the end of the mating season). Both elk and deer produce offspring at the beginning of the spring. Babies are covered with white spots which provide camouflage and ensure protection against predators. Aside from the similarities in morphology, feeding and reproduction, elk and deer differ in many aspects:


Deer usually inhabits grasslands, deserts and forests, while elk prefers mountainous forests.

Body Size

Elk is much larger and heavier compared to a deer. It can reach 5 feet in height, 8 feet in length and 700 pounds of weight (sometimes up to 1100 pounds). Deer usually grows to the height of 3.5 feet and length of 7 feet. It rarely exceeds weight of 100 to 300 pounds.

Size of Antlers

Deer develops spikes (young male) or branched antlers that are shorter than antlers that are typically seen in elk. Antlers of elk can reach 4 feet in length.

Color of the Coat

Elk has shaggy brown coat which is especially thick during the winter. Males, females and young elks develop manes around the neck during the winter to prevent loss of body heat. Deer has reddish coat during the summer and grey coat during the winter. Species of deer called whitetail, also has white-colored tail, which can be raised to inform other members of the group about the upcoming danger.


Deer can reach the speed of 30 miles per hour when it needs to escape from the predators. Elk is slightly faster. It can run at the speed of 45 miles per hour.


Both elk and deer are herbivores, but they prefer different types of plants. Elk is specialized for diet based on grass, while deer likes to eat legumes, shoots, leaves and grass.


Deer is silent most of the time. It occasionally bleats, grunts and produces high-pitched "oooh"-like sounds. Unlike deer, male elk produces very loud bugling calls during the mating season which takes place during the autumn. Bugling calls can be heard miles away, usually early in the morning and late in the evening.


Deer and elk have different shape of the hooves and they leave different tracks in the ground. Deer leaves heart-shaped tracks, while elk leaves tooth-shaped tracks that consist of two roundish, parallel-oriented halves of each hoof.

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