The moose (Alces alces) is the largest member of the deer family. Which is good news, given that anyone who’s ever bumped into a moose in the woods will tell you that they are indeed enormous, so anything larger in the deer family would really strain logistics.
‘Did you get my authorization request for 11,000 coffee creamers?’
How big are moose? A male moose can be seven feet tall at the shoulder and ten feet at their head, with a massive rack that can easily span six feet across and requires turning one’s moose head 90 degrees to sneak between trees. They can easily reach 1,500 pounds (females, which are smaller, work out obsessively), though the record trophy is over a ton, with a 38-point rack that must have been a nightmare to carry and completely ruined the feng shui of the family room.
‘Look what I did! Say…does anyone know anything about levers?’
Moose inhabit the upper regions of North America (specifically Canada and Alaska, but also Northern New England, Upstate New York, Minnesota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the North Rockies, and South Florida1). They can also be found across Northern Europe and Russia, where they are known as elk, or ‘Elch’ in German or ‘elg’ in Scandinavian tongues, or лось in Russian. This all gets a bit confusing, since in North America the word elk refers to the second largest deer species, the elk (Cervus candesis, lit. ‘Not A Moose’).2 A simple rule of thumb is this: In Europe it’s an elk, in North America it’s a moose and a non-elk elk spelled Elch or Elg (meaning moose), and in Russia there is a лось, which is a moose (лось).
Got it? Good.
Oh, лось? He’s over in Russia.
The word moose itself is derived from the Algonquian Eastern Abnaki word moz, which translates loosely to ‘twig eater.’ Originally meaning to taunt the moose, the bullies soon found themselves humbled by a stern lecture from an antler. Only the males have antlers and shed them in the winter to conserve energy, and they do come in handy for impressing lady moose (cows), clonking into things, being inconvenient, and weighing a lot. Given that the male moose has to regrow a massive rack every year in preparation for mating season, their antlers are among the fastest-growing organs in the world. Even more fascinating, if a male moose is ever castrated, he will immediately shed his antlers and begin growing a new set of misshapen and deformed antlers that he will wear the rest of his life without ever shedding again. Why? Because of his shame.
As the largest deer family member, the moose needs to consume nearly 10,000 calories a day just to maintain its body weight. This is just one of many reasons that moose make notoriously bad pets. While other deer make fine, if slightly confusing pets, the moose not only sucks up hundreds of dollars a week in food but also take hours in the bathroom getting ready every morning and needs to be taken on walks 47 times a day.
Like many animals, moose like to make a contribution to the natural ecosystem. But unlike most animals, they also like to contribute to destroying automobiles. As terrible as hitting any animal is, and as much damage as, say, a whitetail deer might do to your car, hitting a moose will really ruin your Kia Spectra (yet another reason not to get a baby moose on impulse). In Scandinavia, they test their Scandinavian cars on fake moose, and then turn around and attack the competition in ads with the slogan, ‘There are no moose in Japan.’ Upon hearing of this ad campaign and realizing that they had shamed their nation by not having moose, hundreds of executives at Honda Motor Corporation committed ritual suicide.
The main thing to know about moose is that they are enormous. More pointedly, owning one as a pet is a decision almost bound to bring a lifetime of regret. It will most certainly cause family conflict, and in all likelihood your friends will stop coming over. Plus your neighbors will gossip. You may end up on the news. And there are at least even odds that your chandelier will need frequent repairing.
‘Hey did you need that crystal chandelier or were you planning to get rid of it?’
GRADE AS PET: D+/C-
1 Floridian moose are mostly retirees, and if you think old people and cars don’t mix – or moose and cars don’t mix – then just imagine old moose and cars. It’s a mess.
2 This was due to European settlers deciding that C. candesis looked more like their elk than their own silly red deer species, so they did the logical thing and called this obviously-completely-different animal an elk (moose).