If ancient hunters from the ice age were still alive today, they would probably be wondering what shrunk all the deer.

Deer come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and for the most part, prehistoric deer look much like their modern equivalents (moose, whitetail, elk, caribou, musk deer, etc.). One thing that is different however, is the sheer size. In times past, massive deer with antlers that span the width of barns doors roamed across the land, coexisting with saber-toothed tigers and wholly mammoths.

The earliest deer actually came from diminutive animals (Archaeomeryx and Dicrocerus) and barely rose more than a few feet off the ground. Throw in a few million years of evolution though, and you get something much bigger. Here are five of the largest prehistoric species in the deer family.

1. Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus)

Image from I, Atirador on the Wikimedia Commons.
Image from I, Atirador on the Wikimedia Commons.

The Irish elk, commonly referred to as giant deer, is one of the largest deer species that ever lived. With well-preserved specimens being found in the peat bogs of Ireland, scientists estimated that these massive creatures stood about 7 feet tall at the shoulders on average, weighed well over 1,600 pounds, and carried the largest antlers of any known deer species. Just a full rack by itself could weigh up to 90 pounds. With all these characteristics, the Irish elk can be seen as a mega-sized version of the modern moose.

Irish elk first surfaced towards the end of the Pleistocene Epoch roughly 100,000 years ago. Specimens found in Siberia show that the species was still present as recent as 7,000 years ago, meaning it was likely a prime game animal for early human hunters. The species was found widely across Europe, Asia, and Africa and it is believed that hunting by humans may have have played a part in their decline. Believe it or not, scientists actually say their large and unwieldy antlers were most to blame for the elk’s eventual extinction.  A decrease in high-quality forage was unable to sustain massive deer with equally massive antlers, and some speculate that the deer failed to grow smaller to adjust.

You can get a sense of how big Irish elk were compared to humans in the video below:

Species of the Megaloceros genus are all honorable mentions on this list due to their size, and uniqueness of their antlers. Below is an artist’s depiction of them.

Image from Apokryltaros on the Wikimedia Commons.
Image from Apokryltaros on the Wikimedia Commons. From left to right are M. savini, M. cazioti, M. obscurus, M. pachyosteus, M. giganteus, and M. verticornis.

2. Stag-moose (Cervalces scotti)

Image from dantheman9758 on the Wikimedia Commons.
Image from dantheman9758 on the Wikimedia Commons.

Imagine a large modern moose with the head of a deer and you would have some picture of what the stag-moose looked like. This creature from the Pleistocene epoch lived alongside other megafauna such as giant beavers, woodland musk ox, and the dreaded dire wolf. Stag-moose can grow up to 1,500 pounds and reached 8 foot at the shoulder. Unfortunately, its large size did not help it any when the ice age ended, and competition between large-bodied animals lead to a mass extinction event in North America. Eventually, the stag-moose was replaced by the now iconic plains bison.

Experts say that the animal’s downfall may be due to its inability to adapt to warming temperatures. The stag-moose was hyper-adapted to ice and snow, with razor sharp hooves designed to break ice and a thick coat to survive frigid temperatures. Due to its large size, the stag-moose was more than capable of fighting of predators such as ancient brown bears, wolves, and the American cave lion. It is believed that the stag-moose was also a popular target for early human hunters.

3. Bush-antlered deer (Eucladoceros dicaranios pictured)

Image from Ghedoghedo on the Wikimedia Commons.
Image from Ghedoghedo on the Wikimedia Commons.

These large deer may not be the heaviest on this list, but they certainly have some of the most interesting antlers. The Eucladoceros genus was nicknamed the “bush-antlered deer” because of the unique shape of their racks. Their comb-like antlers can split into twelve tines per pedicle and were up to six feet wide. It is believed that due to the shape of the antlers, they were used mostly for presentation than any actual fighting.

Species within the genus could be found across Europe and Asia and date back to the Early Pleistocene.

4. Broad-fronted moose (Cervalces latifrons)

Image from Ghedoghedo on the Wikimedia Commons.
Image from Ghedoghedo on the Wikimedia Commons.

This is it, the be-all, end-all of large deer. The broad-fronted moose is the largest deer to have ever existed—probably—and was so large, it weighed twice that of the Irish elk. If you’ve been keeping track, that puts this massive animal at well over 3,000 pounds! It was also surprisingly fast for its size since its long limbs allow for a gait known as “silt-locomotion,” which allows it to run quickly through snow or bogs.

The animal lived in the colder parts of Europe and Asia during the end of the Pleistocene epoch and eventually crossed over into North America where it evolved into the stag-moose. Experts are still uncertain whether ones that stayed in Europe eventually developed into modern moose, or died out entirely after the end of the ice age.

5. Broad-antlered deer (Libracles gallicus pictured)

Image from Stanton F. Fink on the Wikimedia Commons.
Image from Stanton F. Fink on the Wikimedia Commons.

One of the earliest deer on this list, the Libracles genus lived during the Pliocene period starting 2.5 million years ago. These deer was not especially large, but had the largest antlers proportional to their body size, rivaling that of the great Irish elk. Despite being only slightly large that modern deer, the species of the Libracles genus sport antlers over two meters wide. Not surprisingly, some scientists suspect that this genus is the early ancestor of the Meglaoceros.

What's Your Reaction?

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry
8122

22 thoughts on “5 Massive Prehistoric Deer Species That Make Modern Deer Look Tiny

  1. Great pictures and all..but there is no evidence of evolution in those or anything else. There is not a single transitional fossil record of anything turning into anything else. Not only would you need probably hundreds of (complete or complete enough to be sure)fossils and/or skeletal remains to prove such a transition-nothing even remotely close to that has been found- not even a dozen. Everything is based upon a leap of faith- a skull cap here..a jawbone there..and then cute drawings or paintings by artists- to make them into anything you want them to be. Don’t believe me? Search the web and post the evidence. It doesn’t exist.

      1. If you’d give me the physical evidence I”m asking for..I would change my mind in a heartbeat.

        You believe in nothing turning into everything in this universe and all the complexity surrounding it. Yea that’s logical.

  2. Jonathan, I would assume that you would explain to people that god changed things? Is that not a leap in faith as well? Search the web and post evidence that god is real. It and he does not exist.

  3. Eric..it’s obvious faith is involved in believing in God, and what He has done. That’s a given. Combine that with how complex etc everything is. Which is why I say “leap of faith” when it comes to evolution- because it takes faith to believe that as well.

    But I’m not surprised both of you couldn’t come up with the evidence I asked for. Evidence that is always claimed to exist. Taught in schools, etc. Because there is no such animal- pun intended.

    Next I suppose you’re going to ask where God came from. Where did anything come from nothing to produce everything that is out there? Actually the latest is that the universe has no beginning..or end. http://www.techtimes.com/articles/32659/20150214/big-bang-didnt-happen-new-theory-suggests-universe-has-no-beginning-no-end.htm Sounds almost…God-like.

  4. You know, God could have (and did!) use whatever mechanism He wished to accomplish this modern world. Believing evolution took place does not take anything away from Him!

  5. That evidence your calling out for is called carbon dating and genetic sample coding Johnathan, you see an emergence of a species starts by having genetic similarities with a previous species of a previous time frame or convergent time frame; then you see a transitional period were that same or similar genetic material becomes present in a previous subspecies or a new one that results in changes to the organisms appearance and functionality to better reflect needs associated with temperature or environmental changes, for example right now because of global warming polar bears are successfully cross breading with grizzly bears producing a new sub species, the new species in simplest terms you would understand are brown but the same size of polar bears…. reference to things of this nature are generally listed in the appendices of articles as reference points to the medium of the population that is reading the article just in case some one there has an advanced degree (6-13 years of university) and knows what they are reading and talking about and would like to see the corresponding data…. this educational concept is not to be confused with bible studies and subpar equivalencies of sub optimal basket weaving achieved by those that aspire to that level of generalized retardation with paperwork to prove it.

  6. That evidence your calling out for is called carbon dating and genetic sample coding Johnathan, you see an emergence of a species starts by having genetic similarities with a previous species of a previous time frame or convergent time frame; then you see a transitional period were that same or similar genetic material becomes present in a previous subspecies or a new one that results in changes to the organisms appearance and functionality to better reflect needs associated with temperature or environmental changes, for example right now because of global warming polar bears are successfully cross breading with grizzly bears producing a new sub species, the new species in simplest terms you would understand are brown but the same size of polar bears…. reference to things of this nature are generally listed in the appendices of articles as reference points to the medium of the population that is reading the article just in case some one there has an advanced degree (6-13 years of university) and knows what they are reading and talking about and would like to see the corresponding data…. this educational concept is not to be confused with bible studies and subpar equivalencies of sub optimal basket weaving achieved by those that aspire to that level of generalized retardation.

  7. Still nothing. That is not the evidence I’m calling for. There are issues with carbon dating btw.

    And please..with the global warming. It’s now called climate change because…well..things just change. Bears breeding with bears does not= evolution. And just as not all evolutionists agree a certain whale fossil is a transitional one(in other words..it’s all just a theory- there is no proof)..there is nothing proving climate change is causing those bears to get lucky with one another:

    “Answered by Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International and Polar Bear Project Leader at the U.S. Geological Survey for thirty years.

    Q: Are the recent sightings of polar bear-grizzly hybrids in Canada due to climate change? And, if so, does this mean a new species is emerging that will help save polar bears?

    A. Recent confirmations of grizzly/polar bear hybrids in northwestern Canada may or may not be a symptom of global warming. And, even if it is, it has little relevance to future polar bear conservation.

    “Research shows that sporadic interbreeding between the two species occurred throughout the polar bear’s history. We’ve known for many decades that polar bears and grizzly/brown bears will interbreed in zoos. It seems reasonable that in areas where their ranges are adjacent — that is, where the sea ice habitats occupied by polar bears and the terrestrial habitats occupied by grizzly/brown bears occur side-by-side—that some interbreeding takes place.”
    http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/about-polar-bears/what-scientists-say/polar-bear-grizzly-hybrids
    In other words- common sense.

  8. It’s all speculation and fanciful artistic licence, no hard core overwhelming evidence of existence has been produced. If only the neaderthals had have invented a camera (digital with a date stamp please), they could have produced the evidence with photos of their trophy rooms.

  9. Andrew, there is no evidence that polar bears and grizzly bears are breeding because of global warming. Interbreeding is rare because they don’t share the same habitat, and has nothing to do with climate. Nor are they creating a new subspecies. Taxonomists say that they are both already related subspecies, just as closely related as brown bears and grizzly bears. Two subspecies breeding cannot make a new species.

  10. Johnathan…your fucking retarded…enough said. Providing proof to people like you is a vain attempt because you “stuck-in-the-middle-eastern-bronze-age-mythology” mind can’t comprehend anything more complex than a fax machine without having to throw your imaginary “sky-daddy” at it. Hide in the closet and fuck your bible please.

    1. Wow. We have to wait for our posts to go through and yet that language and childishness is allowed?

      There isn’t even a vain attempt by you, because such proof is non-existent.

  11. I wonder how long it would take to get a huntable population in the US of these deer.. Wow. Get on with it Scientists do something cool for a change

    1. kill one of these feed your family for a year also i’d kill one just for their antlers they would look great on helmets

      1. Kill a modern bull moose and you can feed your family for a year. A big bull can give you 900lbs of edible meat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *