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Chevrotains, also known as mouse-deer, are small ungulates that make up the family Tragulidae, the only members of the infraorder Tragulina. The 10 extant species are placed in three genera,[1][2] but several species also are known only from fossils.[3] The extant species are found in forests in South and Southeast Asia, with a single species in the rainforests of Central and West Africa.[4] They are solitary or live in pairs, and feed almost exclusively on plant material.[4] Chevrotains are the smallest hoofed mammals in the world. The Asian species weigh between 0.7 and 8.0 kg (1.5 and 17.6 lb), while the African chevrotain is considerably larger at 7–16 kg (15–35 lb).[5]

Temporal range: Oligocene–Recent
Mouse-deer Singapore Zoo 2012.JPG
Tragulus kanchil
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Infraorder: Tragulina
Family: Tragulidae
Milne-Edwards, 1864


Chevrotain is a French word that means "little goat".

The single African species is consistently known as "chevrotain".[1][4][6] The names "chevrotain" and "mouse-deer" have been used interchangeably among the Asian species,[4][7][8][9] though recent authorities typically have preferred chevrotain for the species in the genus Moschiola and mouse-deer for the species in the genus Tragulus.[1] Consequently, all species with pale-spotted or -striped upper parts are known as "chevrotain" and without are known as "mouse-deer".

The Telugu name for the Indian spotted chevrotain is jarini pandi, which literally means "a deer and a pig".[citation needed] In Kannada, it is called barka (ಬರ್ಕ), in Malayalam, it is called khooran, and the Konkani name for it is barinka. The Tamil term is சருகு மான் sarukumāṉ "leaf-pile deer". The Sinhalese name meeminna roughly translates to "mouse-like deer". This was used in the scientific name of the Sri Lankan spotted chevrotain, M. meminna.


The family is widespread and successful from the Oligocene (34 million years ago) through the Miocene (about 5 million years ago), but has remained almost unchanged over that time and remains as an example of primitive ruminant form. They have four-chambered stomachs to ferment tough plant foods, but the third chamber is poorly developed. Though most species feed exclusively on plant material, the water chevrotain occasionally takes insects and crabs, or scavenges meat and fish.[10] Like other ruminants, they lack upper incisors. They give birth to only a single young.

In other respects, however, they have primitive features, closer to nonruminants such as pigs. All species in the family lack antlers and horns, but both sexes have elongated canine teeth. These are especially prominent in males, where they project out on either side of the lower jaw, and are used in fights.[4] Their legs are short and thin, which leave them lacking in agility, but also helps to maintain a smaller profile to aid in running through the dense foliage of their environments. Other pig-like features include the presence of four toes on each foot, the absence of facial scent glands, premolars with sharp crowns, and the form of their sexual behaviour and copulation.[11]

Mating mouse-deer

They are solitary or live in pairs.[4] The young are weaned at 3 months of age, and reach sexual maturity between 5 and 10 months, depending on species. Parental care is relatively limited. Although they lack the types of scent glands found in most other ruminants, they do possess a chin gland for marking each other as mates or antagonists, and, in the case of the water chevrotain, anal and preputial glands for marking territory. Their territories are relatively small, on the order of 13–24 hectares (32–59 acres), but neighbors generally ignore each other, rather than compete aggressively.[11]

Some of the species show a remarkable affinity with water, often remaining submerged for prolonged periods to evade predators or other unwelcome intrusions. This has also lent support to the idea that whales evolved from water-loving creatures that looked like small deer.[12][13]


Traditionally, only four extant species were recognized in the family Tragulidae.[4] In 2004, T. nigricans and T. versicolor were split from T. napu, and T. kanchil and T. williamsoni were split from T. javanicus.[14] In 2005, M. indica and M. kathygre were split from M. meminna.[2] With these changes, the 10 extant species are:

Indian spotted chevrotain
Tragulus sp.

Ancient chevrotainsEdit

Painting of Dorcatherium.

The six extinct chevrotain genera[3] include:

and may include[18][19]

The Hypertragulidae were closely related to the Tragulidae.


  1. ^ a b c Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M., eds. (2005). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b Groves, C., and E. Meijaard (2005). Intraspecific variation in Moschiola, the Indian Chevrotain. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. Supplement 12: 413–421
  3. ^ a b Farooq, U., Khan, M.A., Akhtar, M. and Khan, A.M. 2008. Lower dentition of Dorcatherium majus (Tragulidae, Mammalia) in the Lower and Middle Siwaliks (Miocene) of Pakistan Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Tur. J. Zool., 32: 91–98.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Nowak, R. M. (eds) (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World. 6th edition. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  5. ^ UltimateUngulate: Hyemoschus aquaticus. Accessed 12 October 2010.
  6. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). "Hyemoschus aquaticus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  7. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). "Moschiola indica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  8. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). "Moschiola kathygre". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  9. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). "Moschiola meminna". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  10. ^ Kingdon, J. (1997). The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-408355-2
  11. ^ a b Dubost, G. (1984). Macdonald, D. (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 516–517. ISBN 978-0-87196-871-5.
  12. ^ Walker, M. (2009-07-07). "Aquatic deer and ancient whales". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-03-26.
  13. ^ Meijaard, E.; Umilaela; de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (September 2010). "Aquatic escape behaviour in mouse-deer provides insight into tragulid evolution". Mammalian Biology. 75 (5): 471–473. doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2009.05.007.
  14. ^ Meijaard, I., and C. P. Groves (2004). A taxonomic revision of the Tragulus mouse-deer. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 140: 63–102.
  15. ^ E. Thenius 1950. Über die Sichtung und Bearbeitung der jungtertiären Säugetierreste aus dem Hausruck und Kobernaußerwald (O.Ö.) in Verh. Geol. B.-A. 51/2, pp 56
  16. ^ Israel M. Sánchez; Victoria Quiralte; Jorge Morales; Martin Pickford (2010). "A new genus of tragulid ruminant from the early Miocene of Kenya" (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 55 (2): 177–187. doi:10.4202/app.2009.0087.
  17. ^ Métais, G.; Chaimanee, Y.; Jaeger, J.-J. & Ducrocq S (2001). "New remains of primitive ruminants from Thailand: Evidence of the early evolution of the Ruminantia in Asia" (PDF). Zoologica Scripta. 30 (4): 231. doi:10.1046/j.0300-3256.2001.00071.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-22.
  18. ^ Terry A. Vaughan; James M. Ryan; Nicholas J. Czaplewski (2011-04-21). Mammalogy (5th ed.). ISBN 9780-7637-6299-5. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  19. ^ Sánchez, Israel M.; Quiralte, Victoria; Morales, Jorge; Pickford, Martin (2010). "A New Genus of Tragulid Ruminant from the Early Miocene of Kenya". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 55 (2): 177. doi:10.4202/app.2009.0087.
  20. ^ Paleobiology Database: Krabitherium. Retrieved on 2013-01-18.

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