Moschus chrysogasteralpine musk deer

Geographic Range

Moschus chrysogaster lives along the Himalayas in Nepal, northern India, southern China, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Pakistan (CITES,2001; Shrestha,1989; Sathyakumar,1993; Kattel,1991).


M. chrysogaster usually lives in forests with moderate to steep slopes (Kattel,1991). M. chrysogaster is found in oak or fir forests (Kattel,1991) and can be found up to the tree line (usually about 4500 m) in mountains. Plants that may be found in its habitat include birch, rhododendron, blue pine, fir, oak, juniper, grass, lichens and shrubs (Kattel,1991; Green,1987).

  • Range elevation
    2400 to 4500 m
    7874.02 to 14763.78 ft

Physical Description

M. chrysogaster looks like a small deer with long upper canines that are visible even when the mouth is closed. It's tail is hairless except for a small tuff at the end (Shrestha, 1989), and it has long "hare-like" ears (Sathyakumar,1993). It has an externally visible musk sac that lies between its reproductive organs and umbilicus (Shrestha, 1989). The opening to the sac lies anterior to the urethra (Shrestha, 1989). A musk deer is about 60cm tall and has a shoulder height of about 20cm (Shrestha, 1989).

Musk deer have a caudal gland at the base of their tails (Green,1985-1987).

  • Range mass
    10 to 15 kg
    22.03 to 33.04 lb
  • Average length
    100 cm
    39.37 in


The mating season is December to January (Shrestha,1989).

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    639 days


The average lifespan of captive bred M. chrysogaster is 2.4 years. The average lifespan of wild caught captive M. chrysogaster is about 7 years. The oldest captive Dwarf musk deer (M. berezovskii) from China had a lifespan of 20 years (Sathyakumar,1993).

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    17 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    3.1 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    2.4 years


M. chrysogaster is a solitary animal with a "bounding gait" (Sathyakumar,1993). The adult males are probably territorial. One interesting aspect of the species is that they usually defecate (but never urinate) at a latrine, which is a spot designated by M chrysogaster as a "toilet". They always squat when urinating or defecating.

They scent mark by rubbing the caudal gland located at the base of their tail against plants. This leaves a greasy smear on the plant (Green,1985-1987).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

M. chrysogaster is a ruminant (Sathyakumar,1993). It can live on poor quality food. In autumn and winter, it mostly eats forbs and the woody plant leaves of trees and shrubs such as oak and gaultheria. In spring and summer, its diet consists mainly of forbs and lichens (Green,1987).

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • lichens


M. chrysogaster has a shy nature (Sathyakumar,1993), and is easily alarmed (Kattel,1991). It is a solitary animal (Sathyakumar,1993) that is wary of humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The musk is used by humans to make soap, perfume (Myers,1999) and indigenous medicine (Sathyakumar,1993).

Conservation Status

CITES Appendix I Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Pakistan

Appendix II Bhutan, China

The M. chrysogaster population around the Himalayan area has decreased greatly because of poaching animals for their musk and the destruction of natural habitats both by livestock and by local people who collect bamboo for domestic use (Sathyakumar,1993).

One method of conserving M. chrysogaster is by extracting the musk without killing the musk deer. However, this method takes more time, and is more traumatizing for the musk deer (Shrestha,1989). Musk deer farms are used for this purpose, but these farms have high mortality rates. The main causes of deaths in these farms are trauma, pneumonia and diarrhea (Sathyakumar,1993).

Some problems that may contribute to the high mortality rate are low quality buildings, poor equipment, lack of adequate money, lack of skilled workers, and the remoteness and cold climate of the farm location (Sathyakumar,1993).

In China, there has been reports of success in cutting down mortality rate in Dwarf musk deer farms. In Fozling Farm, Anhui, the survival of young increased from 50% to >90%. In Ma Er Kang Farm, Sichuan, the young survival rate was 74% from 1959 to 1973 for three hundred and thirty-six Dwarf musk deer (Sathyakumar, 1993).

The reasons for keeping musk deer farms are for musk production, research, reintroduction into wild, and reintroduction to existing wild populations (Sathyakumar,1993).

Other Comments

The caudal gland located at the base of the tail secretes a foul smelling viscous yellow substance (Green,1985-1987).

The musk pod is located only in males, and secretes musk (Sathyakumar, 1993). The musk is of highest quality during mating season which is from December to January. During this time, it is a dark red brown granular powder with a strong smell. During November, April, and June, the musk quality is poorer. It has a pasty appearance, its color is creamy white, and it has little smell (Shrestha,1989). The external musk pod is roughly 4.1cm long, 3.3cm wide, and 4.6cm deep (Shrestha,1989).


Gabriel Gam (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ondrej Podlaha (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.


active during the night

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


"CITES-listed Species Database: Fauna" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2001 at

Green, M. 1987. Diet composition and quality in Himalayan musk deer based on fecal analysis. JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT, 51: "880-892".

Green, M. 1985-1987. Scent-marking in the Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster). JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY SERIES B: "721-737".

Kattel, B., A. Alldredge. 1991. Capturing and handling of the Himalayan musk deer. WILDLIFE SOCIETY BULLETIN, 19: "397-399".

Myers, P. 1999. "Moschidae" (On-line). Accessed November 19, 2001 at

Sathyakumar, S., S. Prasad, S. Walker. 1993. Status of captive Himalayan forest musk deer Moschus c. chrysogaster in India. INTERNATIONAL ZOO YEARBOOK, 32: "32-38".

Shrestha, M. 1989. Musk deer Moschus chrysogaster: musk extraction from live deer. JOURNAL OF THE BOMBAY NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY, 86: "438-440".