Today’s creature has earned the colloquial name of Vampire Deer, but is actually a musk deer. This name refers to any of the seven species that make up the genus Moschus and the one shown here is M. moschiferus, or Siberian musk deer. This unusual animal looks like a cross between a kangaroo and a vampire, with its tusks that resemble fangs, which are used to fend off other males during mating season. Musk deer live mainly in forested and alpine scrub habitats in the mountains of southern Asia, notably the Himalayas. In fact, they are entirely Asian in their present distribution, since they became extinct in Europe.
Musk deer are herbivores, living in lovely forested environments, generally far from any humans. They eat mainly leaves, flowers, and grasses, with a bit of mosses and lichens thrown in. They are solitary animals, and maintain well-defined territories, which they scent mark with their caudal glands (no idea where there are located). Musk deer are generally shy, and either nocturnal, or coming out at twilight. Male musk deer have something that has been described as more valuable than gold which is a musk gland, situated in its rectal area.
Since ancient times, deer musk has been extensively used as a perfume fixative, incense material, and medicine. It is also still one of the most expensive animal products in the world. According to Wikipedia, “good deer musk is of a dark purplish color, dry, smooth and unctuous to the touch, and bitter in taste.” Yeah… take a moment to let that last bit sink in and wonder who the hell is eating musk out of a deer’s butt. At least it’s comforting to know that if you’re curious, there’s no longer a need to try it for yourself.
About the Doodlewash
M. Graham watercolors: Gamboge, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Neutral Tint and Titanium White Gouache. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon sepia ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal
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