Chevrotains are among the smallest hoofed animals, standing only about a foot tall at the shoulder. They live in Southeast Asia and are commonly known as mouse-deer based on their small size. Although they resemble deer and share some characteristics, they are not closely related. They are considered a primitive species and a living fossil, virtually unchanged for 30 million years.
Chevrotains do not have antlers. Instead, like many deer that live in densely forested habitat, males have sharp tusks. These tusks are canine teeth that grow continuously. They are usually about two inches long in males because they often break. Males use these tusks to bite other males when fighting for females or territory. They are protected from serious injury by thick skin and deep muscles around their necks and rumps.
Female chevrotains are sexually mature at about five months old. A single offspring is born after a five-month gestation, and the female can conceive again within hours of giving birth. The newborn is precocial, standing and active within 30 minutes of birth. Females do not provide much maternal care. The newborn stays hidden, and mom visits periodically to nurse. Chevrotains have stocky bodies, strongly arched backs, and short, thin legs. They have limited agility and cannot stand up on their hind legs to reach browse. Male chevrotains are generally smaller than females. Malay chevrotains are shy, solitary, and nocturnal. Extremely territorial animals, they mark their small territories with urine, feces, and secretions produced by glands located in their lower jaws. As a prey species, chevrotains can be extremely nervous. When they suspect a threat, they will freeze in position often with one leg raised, assessing the situation. They may drum the ground with their hooves. If startled, they run in a zig-zag pattern at top speed through the forest. They are good swimmers and may dive into water for protection. Predators include large snakes, raptors, felines, and humans.
Larger Malay chevrotains inhabit tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Indonesia.
The chevrotain’s diet consists of fruits, leaves, buds, and grasses.
Body length is up to two feet and they stand about one foot tall at the shoulder. They weigh nine to 13 pounds and live 12 to 16 years.