Elk vs Caribou: A Complete Differentiation Guide

Elk vs Caribou

Elk and Caribou are both animals that belong to the deer family, and they only eat plants. But, they have some differences between them. An adult elk is bigger and heavier than an adult caribou. Did you know that only male and female caribou grow antlers? But, female elk don’t grow them.

These two animals have fur that helps them stay warm in cold weather. Caribou live in cold forests and the Arctic tundra. They have a special nose with a furry cover to help them breathe in warm air. On the other hand, elk live in forests and meadows in North America and eastern Asia. Nowadays, people have introduced them to other places like Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina.[acf field=”Schema”]

Elk vs Caribou

As mentioned earlier these two animals have remarkable traits that are very distinct from each other.  The main difference between these two animals is the size and average weight of their body.

 Up next we are going to discuss each aspect of these animals.  In this way, you can get the most appropriate differentiation between these two species of the deer family.  Let’s start our differentiation guide about these two mammals from Kingdom Animalia.


         Caribou species are mainly from the family, Cervidae. These mammals are smaller than elk species. Despite the concept of elk vs Caribou size, caribou are very larger animals than other species that are from the deer family.

         When we talk about the largest living mammals found on the earth.  The first name that comes to our mind is the elk species from the dear family. These animals are bigger than Caribou.

Weight of the animals

·          These animals are very large, and the weight of the Caribou species is around 350 to 400 Pounds.  This is the weight of an adult Caribou animal. Caribou species that are found in northern areas are smaller, hence their weight is also less. And those found in the southern areas are pretty large in size. So their average weight differs accordingly and is relatively more.

·         The weight of elk species is 650-850 pounds. Because these animals are very large they possess more weight as compared to Caribou animals.  These figures are the average of all the adult elk species. You can also have a better understanding of Elk vs moose size.

 Found in regions

·     You can find Caribou species in Asia, Europe, Greenland, America mainly in North America. In these regions, these animals are found abundantly in Arctic boreal and tundra forests.

·          On the other hand, Elk species are found in countries like Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, and nearby regions.  If we consider the primary location of elk, they are present in the eastern Asia and North American regions of the world.

 Height of the animals

·         Now as we are doing elk vs Caribou, then let’s talk about their height.  These figures are taken from the shoulder.  The Caribou species hold an average height of 33 to 66 inches.

·          Elk are large animals, excluding the height of their antlers, the average height of Elks are 56 to 68 inches.  They are very tall and have massive body weight and height.

 The fur on the body

·         This fur on the body of these animals varies from species to species and region to region.  For instance, Caribou that are found in northern areas have white fur on their body. While those in the southern areas, their body fur is in a darker shade.

·         Elks look a little bit different due to the reddish hue. Elks have very prominent buff-colored patches on their body. Their smaller tails and bright dark colour make them look very unique.

Group formations

·          Caribou prefer to live in small groups and their complete one group is called a herd.

·          On the other hand, elks have a highly social nature. Generally, they live in large groups, and their groups are called gangs.

 Migration areas

·          Have you ever thought about which animals are the largest migrators?  All across the globe Caribou animals are one of the largest animal migrators.  These animals can run at the speed of 60 to 80 kilometres per hour.  As a result, they can cover very long distances up to 5000 kilometres a year.  They have very incredible migrating abilities.

·          Elk do not prefer to migrate very extensively.  Primarily these animals migrate from low valley meadows to high points of mountains.  The main reason for their migration is searching for grazing grounds.


·          As both these animals are from the deer family they possess big antlers on their head.  If we compare the antlers of these two animals, then here Caribou species are in the lead.  Both male and female caribou antlers are very large.  And they are bigger than elk species.

·         Elk females do not have antlers on their heads.  And the Elk males antlers are smaller than the Caribou species. One can also go with Elk antlers vs moose antlers as well.

Hooves of the animals

·         Caribou animals have greater adaptations according to the climatic changes in the environment.  Their hooves change according to the season.  For instance in winters, when there is snow all over the place hooves expose the rim in them.  It helps them to walk easily on the ice and avoid slipping on it.

On the other hand, it becomes very spongy in the summer season.  The reason behind it is in summers the tundra forest becomes very soft and moist.  Hence their hooves provide them extra protection and support.

·          The terminology and counting of hooves in Elks are very simple.  There are no prime changes depending upon the season.  Elk have a similar number of toes and it is an even number.  Elk have similar moves as camels, goats, and other cattle animals.

Diet of the animals

·         Here there is a similarity between these two animals. Caribou and elk are fully herbivores.  Caribou prefer to eat lichens in the winter season. Moreover, they love to munch on sledges, grasses, and below leaves.

·          As described earlier, Elks are also herbivores and they like to eat different plant leaves, barks, and grasses.

Average lifespan

·         Now let’s touch on another very important aspect regarding them in our guide, Elk vs Caribou. The average lifespan of Caribou species is 15 years.

·          Contrary to that, Elks have a shorter lifespan as compared to Caribou.  Elks can live for up to 8 to 12 years.  The maximum capacity of living is 20 years or a little bit more.

 We have now completed almost all the aspects regarding these animals.  After reading this guide we hope that you have got a major difference between these two mammals.


We’re done talking about Elk vs Caribou. Now you know how to tell them apart! Both of these animals live in groups and eat plants. One cool thing about Elks is that their antlers can grow really fast, up to 1 inch per day during the summer.

These animals have awesome traits and are really good at living in their environments. If you have any questions about these animals and where they live, just ask us anytime! We’re here for you 24/7.


Q1.       Can elk and Caribou breed?

 According to the deer biologist, it has been confirmed that elk and Caribou cannot breed.  As they are not compatible and their subfamilies are very different.

 Although Elks can hybridise with hog deer, sika deer, and other species that are close to them.

Q2.       Where are Caribou found?

 This species of Caribou is found in the boreal, tundra, and Arctic forests.  They covered the regions of Asia, North America, Greenland, and Europe.

Q3.       How much time do Elks live?

The maximum lifespan of an Elk is 20 years but this is very rare.  Generally, Elks hold a lifespan of 8 to 12 years in wild species

Q4.        Is it a Caribou or deer?

 Many people assume that Caribou is a deer.  Although Caribou is from the deer family it belongs to a different subfamily. They come into the family, Cervidae.

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