Such tiny hooves: This remarkably small and rare creature – about the size of a loaf of bread – looks more like a mouse than any deer.
Deer are very familiar creatures to humanity. Cervids (the deer family) are widespread across the globe, with species like America’s common white-tailed deer numbering in the millions. Yet ungulates – or hoofed animals – still manage to surprise us. Take the sight of a deer the size of a rodent, for example. Now that’s a curious suggestion, isn’t it? And it’s absolutely real.
Meet the Java mouse-deer: the world’s smallest deer. These adorable, tiny creatures share most of their DNA with other ungulate species, but are remarkable in their stature. While an adult male white-tailed buck will weigh around 300+ lbs., or an elk at 800 lbs., these tiny fellows max out at 4 lbs.: tiny hooves and all.
And yes, they really are as precious as they sound:
Unfortunately, their remaining numbers are also surprising in comparison. Next to the whitetail’s millions, there are thought to be less than 100 Java mouse-deer remaining in their native Indonesia. Data, however, is inconclusive, as there are several similar species of mouse-deer with overlapping populations. This, so far, prevents the tiny species from protection.
Numerous or not, these little fellows are the smallest ungulates (hoofed animal) in the world. As such, they spend most of their time in dense, tropical forests around rocks and hollow trees where they can easily seek shelter. Being tiny does, after all, mean you have numerous natural predators.
Unlike other deer species, however, the Java males do not grow antlers. Instead, they sport odd tusks on their lower jaw, giving them an even more unique appearance. The males will use these fang-like tusks to spar over mates, like a teeny clashing of elk during the rut. Despite this fang-like appearance, Javas are primarily herbivores (as seen above). They will eat insects in captivity, though, giving them a rare omnivorous quality.
Mouse-Deer Receive the Spotlight
Recently, the mouse-deer came into the spotlight on social media thanks to TikTok user @chris.wo.
“Did you know the smallest deer in the world weighs four pounds? It’s known as a lesser mouse-deer,” Times Now cites of his post. “They can grow to 18 inches in length and are about the size of a rabbit. Mouse deer are eaten by people and sometimes kept as pets. They can be found in Southeast Asia,” @chris.wo concludes.
Posts like this have led to a resurgence in curiosity over the adorable species and their plight.
Residents of Java, Indonesia – where the species is native to and named after – do indeed hunt the world’s tiniest deer, and often. They are also responsible for its plight through deforestation in their natural habitats. These, combined with trapping for the pet trade, have drastically decreased their numbers.
Remarkably, the species survives through this multi-tiered adversity. Much of this is credited to captive breeding. Through this, biologists now know that the Java mouse-deer is capable of breeding any time of the year. Like some cervid species, though, their peak breeding season takes place in November.
Remarkable, indeed. For all the latest in fascinating outdoors headlines, stick with your fellow Outsiders.