; infra-order Pecora, superfamily Cervoidea)
A family of browsing or grazing animals, which appeared in Eurasia in Miocene and early Pliocene times and had radiated widely by the end of the Pliocene. Some of the later Pleistocene representatives (e.g. Megaceros giganteus, the Irish elk) were giant types, much larger than the surviving forms. The horns (antlers) are complex in many species but simple in ancestral and some primitive species, and absent in Hydropotes (Chinese water deer); usually they are present only in the male (but in Rangifer they are present in both sexes). Usually they are shed annually. Ancestral and some modern species (e.g. Hydropotes) have canine tusks. The feet have four digits. Most species (but not all) are gregarious, living in herds with elaborate social organization. They have a Holarctic distribution. There are about 16 genera, and 43 species, including Cervus (red deer and wapiti or American elk are included in C. elaphus), Rangifer (reindeer or caribou is R. tarandus), Alces (European elk and American moose are both A. alces), Capreolus (roe deer), Dama (fallow deer), and Muntiacus (muntjaks). Moschus (musk-deer), formerly placed in Cervidae, nowadays is universally referred to a separate family, Moschidae.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.