AskDefine | Define moose

Dictionary Definition

moose n : large northern deer with enormous flattened antlers in the male; called elk in Europe and moose in North America [syn: elk, European elk, Alces alces]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • , /muːs/, /mu:s/
    Rhymes with: -uːs


From North-Eastern language, perhaps Eastern Abenaki or Narragansett, mos (or something similar; Proto-Algonquian *mōswa), possibly meaning "he strips off [bark]."


or dated and rare, mooses
  1. The largest member of the deer family (Alces alces), of which the male has very large, palmate antlers. (British: elk).
    We saw two moose at the edge of the woods by the marsh.


Derived terms


largest member of the deer family (Alces alces)


moose (animate noun)


  • mooseg (plural)
  • moosen (obviative)
  • mooseng (locative)
  • moosens (diminutive)
    • moosenseg (plural)
    • moosensen (obviative)
    • moosenseng (locative)


moose- (lexical)
moose= (vowel root)

Derived terms



  • moose= (unaffected)
  • mwaase= (initial change)
  • maamoose= (reduplication)



  1. mouse

Extensive Definition

Moose (Alces alces) is the North American name for the largest extant species in the deer family. The same animal is called the Elk in Europe. The name moose is derived from the Algonquian Eastern Abnaki name moz, meaning "he trims, shaves". Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a "twig-like" configuration. In North America, Elk refers to the second largest deer species, Cervus canadensis.

Habitat and range

Moose typically inhabit boreal and mixed deciduous forests of the Northern Hemisphere in temperate to subarctic climates. In North America, that includes almost all of Canada, most of central and western Alaska, much of New England and upstate New York, the upper Rocky Mountains, Northeastern Minnesota, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Isolated moose populations have been verified as far south as the mountains of Utah and Colorado. In 1978 a few breeding pairs were introduced in western Colorado, and the state's moose population is now more than 1,000. Moose were successfully introduced on the island of Newfoundland in 1904 where they are now the dominant ungulate, and somewhat less successfully on Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Ten moose were also introduced in Fiordland, New Zealand in 1910, but they were thought to have died off. Nevertheless, there have been reported sightings that were thought to be false until moose hair samples were found by a New Zealand scientist in 2002. In 2008 Moose (or Elk) were reintroduced in to the Scottish Highlands.

Physical characteristics


The male's antlers arise as cylindrical beams projecting on each side at right angles to the midline of the skull, which after a short distance divide in a fork-like manner. The lower prong of this fork may be either simple, or divided into two or three tines, with some flattening.
In the North Siberian Elk (Alces alces bedfordiae), the posterior division of the main fork divides into three tines, with no distinct flattening. In the Common Elk (Alces alces alces), on the other hand, this branch usually expands into a broad palmation, with one large tine at the base, and a number of smaller snags on the free border.
There is, however, a Scandinavian breed of the Common Elk in which the antlers are simpler, and recall those of the East Siberian animals.
The palmation appears to be more marked in North American Moose (Alces alces americanus) than in the typical Scandinavian Elk. The largest of all is the Alaskan subspecies (Alces alces gigas), which can stand over 2.1 m (7 ft) in height, with a span across the antlers of 1.8 m (6 ft). Typically, however, the antlers of a mature specimen are between 1.2 m (3.9 ft) and 1.5 m (4.9 ft).
The male will drop its antlers after mating season in order to conserve energy for the winter. A new set of antlers will then regrow in the spring. Antlers take three to five months to fully develop, making them one of the fastest growing organs in the world. They initially have a layer of skin called felt which is shed off once the antlers become fully grown. Immature bulls may not shed their antlers for the winter but instead retain them until the following spring.
If a bull moose is castrated, either due to accidental or chemical means, he will quickly shed his current set of antlers and then immediately begin to grow a new set of misshapen and deformed antlers that he will wear the rest of his life without ever shedding again. The distinctive looking appendages (often referred to as "devil's antlers") are the source of several myths and legends among many groups of Inuit as well as several other tribes of indigenous peoples of North America.

Average size and weight

On average, an adult moose stands 1.8–2.1 m (6–7 ft) high at the shoulder. Males weigh 380–720 kg (850–1180 pounds) and females weigh 270–360 kg (600–800  pounds). The largest confirmed size for this species was a bull shot at the Yukon River in September 1897 weighing 818 kg (1,800 lb) and was 233 cm (92 in) tall at the shoulder.

Social structure and reproduction

Moose are mostly diurnal. They are generally solitary with the strongest bonds between mother and calf. Calves are also referred to as Mooselings. Two individuals can sometimes be found feeding along the same stream.
Mating occurs in September and October. Males will fight for access to females. They will either assess which is larger, and the smaller bull retreats, or they may engage in battles that can turn violent. Female moose have an eight month gestation period. Most litters consist of a single calf; however, twins are not uncommon and triplets are known to occur. The young will stay with the mother until the next young are born.

Natural predators

A full-grown moose has few enemies, but a pack of wolves can still pose a threat, especially to females with calves. Siberian Tigers and Grizzly Bear are also known to prey on moose, although bears are more likely to take over a wolf kill than to hunt moose on their own.

Meat as a source of nutrition

Moose are hunted as a game species in many of the countries where they are found. Moose meat tastes, wrote Henry David Thoreau in “The Maine Woods”, “like tender beef, with perhaps more flavour; sometimes like veal”. While the flesh has similar protein levels to other comparable red meats (e.g. beef, deer and elk) it has a low fat content and the fat that is found is made up of a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats (rather than saturated fats).
Cadmium levels are high in Finnish elk liver and kidneys, with the result that consumption of these organs from elk more than one year old is prohibited in Finland. Cadmium intake has been found to be elevated amongst all consumers of elk meat, though the elk meat was found to contribute only slightly to the daily cadmium intake. However the consumption of moose liver or kidneys significantly increased cadmium intake, with the study revealing that heavy consumers of moose organs have a relatively narrow safety margin below the levels which would probably cause adverse health effects.
Moose are capable of interbreeding with cattle.


European rock drawings and cave paintings reveal that the elk or moose has been hunted since the Stone Age. Excavations in Alby, Sweden adjacent to the Stora Alvaret have yielded elk antlers in wooden hut remains from 6,000 BC, indicating some of the earliest elk hunting in northern Europe. In northern Scandinavia one can still find remains of trapping pits used for hunting elk. These pits, which can be up to 4 x 7 m wide and 2 m deep, would have been camouflaged with branches and leaves. They would have had steep sides lined with planks, making it impossible for the elk to escape once it fell in. The pits are normally found in large groups, crossing the elk's regular paths and stretching over several kilometres. Remains of wooden fences designed to guide the animals toward the pits have been found in bogs and peat. In Norway, an early example of these trapping devices has been dated to around 3,700 BC. Trapping elk in pits is an extremely effective hunting method, and as early as the 16th century the Norwegian government tried to restrict their use. Nevertheless, the method was in use until the 19th century.
The first written description of the elk is in Julius Cæsar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico, where it is described thus:
''"There are also animals which are called alces. The shape of these, and the varied colour of their skins, is much like roes, but in size they surpass them a little and are without horns, and have legs without joints and ligatures; nor do they lie down for the purpose of rest, nor, if they have been thrown down by any accident, can they raise or lift themselves up. Trees serve as beds to them; they lean themselves against them, and thus reclining only slightly, they take their rest; when the huntsmen have discovered from the footsteps of these animals whither they are accustomed to betake themselves, they either undermine all the trees at the roots, or cut into them so far that the upper part of the trees may appear to be left standing. When they have leant upon them, according to their habit, they knock down by their weight the unsupported trees, and fall down themselves along with them."
In chapter 16 of Pliny the Elder's Natural History from 77 AD the elk and an animal called achlis, which is presumably the same animal, are described thus:
"...there is, also, the elk, which strongly resembles our steers, except that it is distinguished by the length of the ears and of the neck. There is also the achlis, which is produced in the land of Scandinavia; it has never been seen in this city, although we have had descriptions of it from many persons; it is not unlike the elk, but has no joints in the hind leg. Hence, it never lies down, but reclines against a tree while it sleeps; it can only be taken by previously cutting into the tree, and thus laying a trap for it, as otherwise, it would escape through its swiftness. Its upper lip is so extremely large, for which reason it is obliged to go backwards when grazing; otherwise, by moving onwards, the lip would get doubled up."
Dr. Valerius Geist, who emigrated to Canada from the Soviet Union wrote in his book Moose: Behaviour, Ecology, Conservation (published in 1999 by Voyageur Press of Stillwater, MN):
"Those who care most passionately about moose are - paradoxically - hunters, in particular people who live in wilderness and rural communities and those who depend on moose for food. In Sweden, no fall menu is without a mouthwatering moose dish. The Swedes fence their highways to reduce moose fatalities and design moose-proof cars. Sweden is less than half as large as the Canadian province of British Columbia, but the annual take of moose in Sweden - upward of 150,000 - is twice that of the total moose harvest in North America. That is how much Swedes cherish their moose."''


Domestication of moose was investigated in the Soviet Union before World War II. Early experiments were inconclusive, but with the creation of a moose farm at Pechora-Ilych Nature Reserve in 1949 a small-scale moose domestication program was started, involving attempts at selective breeding of animals based on their behavioural characteristics. Since 1963, the program has continued at Kostroma Moose Farm, which had a herd of 33 tame moose as of 2003. Although at this stage the farm is not expected to be a profit-making enterprise, it obtains some income from the sale of moose milk and from visiting tourist groups. Its main value, however, is seen in the opportunities it offers for the research in the physiology and behaviour of the moose, as well as in the insights it provides into the general principles of animal domestication. Plans to re-introduce the animal into the Scottish Highlands are in an advanced stage with a pair already living in an enclosure at Allandale estate. There will be a controlled release into the wild later in 2008.

In popular culture

Vehicle collisions and moose warning signs

A moose's body structure, with a large heavy body suspended on long spindly legs, makes these animals particularly dangerous when hit by motor vehicles. Such collisions are often fatal for both the moose and motorist. This has led to the development of a vehicle test in Scandinavia referred to as the "moose test" (Älgtest in Swedish, Elchtest in German). The term was invented by the Swedish motor magazine Teknikens Värld for a test where the tested car needs to make a sharp S-turn at high speed. The term "moose test" came to common knowledge when the Mercedes A-class badly failed the test and turned over. German reporters didn't see the relevance of the test, and the testers replied that that kind of maneuver was important when trying to avoid collisions with moose. The test was not referred to as a moose test in Sweden prior to this incident, but simply as an evasion maneuver test, intended to test the car's ability to perform an evasive maneuver to avoid colliding with any obstacle suddenly occurring on the road. However, since the Swedish journalist talking to the German press didn't know what "evasive maneuver test" would be called in German, he simply called it "Elchtest" - which quickly spread in German media and then stuck. Generally, upon impact the bumper of the car will break the moose's legs. The main body of the moose will then collide with the windscreen, often with disastrous effect to both motorist and animal. In a collision of this nature, a car's airbags may not deploy or be of much use if they do.
Moose warning signs are used on roads in regions where there is a danger of collision with the animal. The triangular warning signs common in Sweden, Norway and Finland have become coveted souvenirs among the many German tourists traveling in these countries, and authorities have had to issue warnings that it is dangerous and criminal to remove these signs. The popularity of these signs has led to them being depicted on all kinds of souvenirs, such as coffee mugs, neckties or T-shirts, and full-size copies of the actual signs may be bought. In the mid 1990s, the Swedish postal service issued a triangular stamp with a moose warning sign, intended to cater especially to German tourists writing postcards home. The brand Ahlgrens bilar ("Ahlgren's Cars"), a popular confectionery product which has been on the market since 1953, has in recent years been extended to other car- and road-related products, one of which, depicting Swedish road signs, includes a candy moose warning sign.
In the Canadian province of New Brunswick, collisions with moose are frequent enough that all new highways have fences to prevent moose from accessing the road, similar to how it has long been done in Finland, Norway and Sweden. Demonstratively, Highway 7 between Fredericton and Saint John, which has one of the highest incidences of moose collisions in the province, does not have these fences, although it is extremely well signed. Fence The New Brunswick Highways is an advocate page put up since 2003 to have the Government Fence the Highways so we can be safe from these Collisions
Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten estimated in January 2008 that some 13,000 moose had died in collisions with Norwegian trains since 2000. The state agency in charge of railroad infrastructure (Jernbaneverket) plans to spend 80 million Norwegian kroner to reduce collision rate in the future by fencing the railways, clearing vegetation from near the tracks, and providing alternative snow-free feeding places for the animals elsewhere.

See also

  • Alces, a journal devoted to the biology and management of moose (Alces alces)


Animal Diversity Web - Alces americanus Outdated scientific name
moose in Catalan: Ant
moose in Chuvash: Пăши
moose in Czech: Los evropský
moose in Danish: Elg
moose in German: Elch
moose in Estonian: Põder
moose in Erzya: Сярдо
moose in Spanish: Alces
moose in Esperanto: Alko
moose in Faroese: Elgur
moose in French: Élan
moose in Galician: Alce
moose in Ido: Alko
moose in Inuktitut: ᑐᒃᑐᕙᒃ/tuktuvak
moose in Icelandic: Elgur
moose in Italian: Alces alces
moose in Hebrew: אייל קורא
moose in Georgian: ლოსი
moose in Latin: Alces
moose in Lithuanian: Briedis
moose in Hungarian: Jávorszarvas
moose in Dutch: Eland
moose in Cree: ᒨᔅ
moose in Japanese: ヘラジカ
moose in Norwegian: Elg
moose in Norwegian Nynorsk: Elg
moose in Narom: Orîngna
moose in Occitan (post 1500): Alces Alces
moose in Polish: Łoś
moose in Portuguese: Alce
moose in Romanian: Elan
moose in Russian: Лось
moose in Simple English: Moose
moose in Slovenian: Los
moose in Serbian: Лос
moose in Finnish: Hirvi
moose in Swedish: Älg
moose in Turkish: Mus
moose in Ukrainian: Лось
moose in Samogitian: Brėidis
moose in Chinese: 駝鹿
moose in Slovak: Los obyčajný
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1