Temporal range: Early Miocene–Recent
Tragulus sp.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Suborder: Ruminantia
Family: Tragulidae
Milne-Edwards, 1864

Chevrotains, also known as mouse deer, are small ungulates that make up the family Tragulidae, the only members of the infraorder Tragulina. There are 10 living (extant) species in three genera,[1][2] but there are also several species only known 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] Depending on exact species, the Asian species weigh between 0.7 and 8.0 kilograms (1.5 and 18 lb), and the smallest species are also the smallest ungulates in the world.[4] The African chevrotain is considerably larger at 7–16 kilograms (15–35 lb).[5]



The word 'chevrotain' itself is French, and can be translated as '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 speces in the genus Moschiola and mouse-deer for the species in the genus Tragulus.[1] Consequently, all species with pale-spotted or -striped upperparts are known as chevrotains, and all the species 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] The Konkani name for it is "Barinka".

The Sinhala name meeminna roughly translates to 'mouse-like deer'. This was used in the scientific name of one of the Sri Lankan species, M. memmina.


The family was 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 a four-chambered stomach 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 scavenge meat and fish.[10] Like other ruminants, they lack upper incisors, and give birth to only a single young.

In other respects, however, they have primitive features, closer to non-ruminants such as pigs. All species in the family lack horns, but both genders 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 environment. 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 three months of age, and reach sexual maturity at between five and ten 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, but neighbors generally ignore each other, rather than competing aggressively.[11]

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


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.[13] In 2005, M. indica and M. kathygre were split from M. meminna.[2] With these changes, there are 10 extant species:

Indian Spotted Chevrotain
Tragulus sp.

Ancient chevrotains

Painting of Dorcatherium.

There are 6 extinct chevrotains genera[3] including:

  • Genus Dorcatherium
  • Genus Dorcabune
  • Genus Afrotragulus Sánchez, Quiralte, Morales and Pickford, 2010 [15]
    • Afrotragulus moruorotensis (previously "Dorcatherium" moruorotensis Pickford, 2001) (early Miocene) from Moruorot, Kenya
    • Afrotragulus parvus (previously "D." parvus Withworth 1958) (early Miocene) from Rusinga Island, Kenya
  • Genus Siamotragulus
  • Genus Yunnanotherium
  • Genus Archaeotragulus[16]
    • Archaeotragulus krabiensis Metais, Chaimanee, Jaeger and Ducrocq, 2001 (late Eocene) from Krabi, Thailand
  • Genus Krabitherium
    • Krabitherium waileki Metais, Chaimanee, Jaeger and Ducrocq, 2007 (late Eocene) from Krabi, Thailand

The Hypertragulidae were closely related to the Tragulidae.


  1. ^ a b c Wilson, Don E.; Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds (2005). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.). 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. Tur. J. Zool., 32: 91-98.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 12 October 2010..
  7. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Moschiola indica. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 12 October 2010..
  8. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Moschiola kathygre. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 12 October 2010..
  9. ^ IUCN SSC Antelope Specialist Group (2008). Moschiola meminna. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 12 October 2010..
  10. ^ Kingdon, J. (1997). The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Acdemic Press. ISB 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 0-87196-871-1. 
  12. ^ "Aquatic deer and ancient whales". BBC News. 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2010-03-26. 
  13. ^ Meijaard, I., and C. P. Groves (2004). A taxonomic revision of the Tragulus mouse-deer. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 140: 63-102.
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ Israel M. Sánchez; Victoria Quiralte; Jorge Morales; Martin Pickford (2010). "A new genus of tragulid ruminant from the early Miocene of Kenya". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 55 (2): 177–187. 
  16. ^ 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. Zoologica Scripta. 30, 231-248.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • chevrotain — [ ʃəvrɔtɛ̃ ] n. m. • fin XVIIIe ; de chevrot, var. de chevreau ♦ Zool. Petit ruminant sans cornes (tragulidés) des forêts tropicales d Asie et d Afrique. Chevrotain de Malaisie. ⊗ HOM. Chevrotin. ● chevrotain nom masculin (de chevrotin) Petit… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Chevrotain — Chev ro*tain , n. [F. chevrotin, OF. chevrot little goat, roe, dim. of chevre goat. See {Chevron}.] (Zo[ o]l.) A small ruminant of the family {Tragulid[ae]} a allied to the musk deer. It inhabits Africa and the East Indies. See {Kanchil}. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • chevrotain — [shev′rə tān΄, shev′rətin] n. [Fr chevrotin, orig., fawn during first half year < OFr chevrot, dim. of chèvre, she goat < L capra, fem. of caper, goat: see CAPRIOLE] any of a family (Tragulidae) of very small, hornless ruminants of S Asia… …   English World dictionary

  • Chevrotain — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Chevrotain, ou chevrotin, désigne en zoologie certains petits mammifères ruminants : Chevrotain désigne certaines espèces de la famille des… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • chevrotain — /shev reuh tayn , tin/, n. any very small, deerlike ruminant of the family Tragulidae, of Africa, tropical Asia, the Malay Peninsula, etc. Also called mouse deer. [ < F, appar. Buffon s alter. of chevrotin roe deer under the age of six months,… …   Universalium

  • chevrotain — /ˈʃɛvrəteɪn/ (say shevruhtayn), / tən/ (say tuhn) noun (plural chevrotains, chevrotain) any of the very small deer of the family Tragulidae, of Asia and Africa, having long, slender limbs and hairless muzzles; mouse deer. {French, diminutive of… …   Australian-English dictionary

  • chevrotain — noun Any of several small hornless ruminants, of the genera Hyemoschus and Tragulus, native to tropical rainforests. Syn: mouse deer …   Wiktionary

  • chevrotain — (che vro tin) s. m. Voy. chevrotin …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • chevrotain — small cloven footed deerlike animal of southeast Asia Unusual Animals …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • chevrotain — [ ʃɛvrəteɪn] noun a small deer like mammal with small tusks, found in tropical rainforests. [Genera Tragulus (Asia) and Hyemoschus (Africa): four species.] Origin C18: from Fr., dimin. of OFr. chevrot, dimin. of chèvre goat …   English new terms dictionary

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