A highly unusual genderless moose, that appears to be neither male nor female, has been encountered in Sweden, Europe’s most moose-rich country, baffling local hunters.
Swedish hunter Carl-Gustav Liderfelt, who took part in the Nordic country’s annual moose hunt, managed to shoot a rare “gender-bending” specimen in Eksjö outside the city of Jönköping in southern Sweden. Although Liderfelt, by his own admission, has been hunting moose since his teenage years, he has never seen anything quite like it.
“At first, I did not see anything strange, it seemed to be like any other elk, until we took a closer look,” 67-year-old Carl-Gustav Liderfelt told the Swedish trade magazine Svensk Jakt. “None of us had ever seen anything like it — the vet told me this happens around three times a year, out of 100,000 elk killed in Sweden each year,” Liderfelt explained.
A moose’s trademark antlers are the easiest way of determining the animal’s sex at first glance, since bulls tend to have much shapelier growths on their heads. This is why Liderfelt initially labeled his trophy as a small male. However, the booty’s antlers appeared somewhat deformed in a strange way. Also, the animal’s head was formed like that of a cow. Lastly, the bearded pouch of loose skin under the chin usually found in bulls was almost non-existent. A closer look into the moose’s intestines revealed that the animal simultaneously had teats and a scrotum, albeit without testicles.
Torsten Mörner of the National Veterinarial Institute (SVA) attributed this phenomenon to some form of hormone disorder. A month-old moose fetus has no gender; this nature decides later, he explained.
“Sometimes, but very rarely, it goes wrong. In short, sex hormones like testosterone are not produced in sufficient quantities to cause the fetus to develop into a bull, resulting in something intermediary,” Torsten Mörner explained. By his own admission, he has only witnessed several cases during his time at the SVA.
According to Mörner, though, the genderless moose cannot be regarded as a true hermaphrodite either, since it is required to have a set of both male and female genitalia.
The slaughter weight of the animal was 220 kilograms, around 30-40 kilograms more than typical for a female. Liderfelt ascribed this to the fact that the animal was neither rutting nor had calves, which coupled with the female hormone estrogen led to a weight increase.
Its age has not yet been officially determined but the hunters believe the animal was around four years old. Despite the unusual features of the moose, no problems with the meat were reported.
“It will be a little difficult to report the case to the game warden, whether we shot a bull or a cow,” Liderfelt smiled.
Sparsely-populated Sweden, a nation of only 10 million, has an impressive moose population of around 300,000, second only to Russia and Canada worldwide. In summertime, the population increases to around 400,000, which allows for the annual shooting of some 100,000 moose by Sweden’s squad of 300,000 hunters, according to the Swedish Hunters Association.