All moose are big. They are the largest remaining members of the deer family Cervidae. They’re also the second largest land mammal in North America, behind only the bison. But if you really want to know “how big is a moose?” you’ve got to get more specific. There are four subspecies of moose in North America and sizes vary with each.
Put generally, the biggest bull moose weigh from 1,200 to 1,600 pounds and adult cow moose weigh from 800 to 1,300 pounds, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Beyond the simple weight of a moose, there’s also height (moose are tall) and antler size (their racks grow to giant proportions). And then there’s the much less quantifiable impact that moose have on North America’s hunters. For many hunters in the North Country, moose are a staple food source. For many more hunters across the world, a giant bull moose represents the greatest of all bucket list hunts.
Jack O’Connor, Outdoor Life’s late, iconic shooting editor once wrote: “It is difficult for the man who is used to hunting deer or even elk to conceive of the enormous bulk of a big bull moose… The moose is not only very heavy, but with his long legs is also tremendously tall. The largest moose I have ever seen dead was shot … in the White River country of the Yukon in 1945. From the bottom of the hoofs to the top of his hump, he measured about 7.5 feet.”
Here’s a breakdown of how big a moose really is.
Moose Subspecies of North America
The four official subspecies of moose in North America all have different home ranges and slightly different size ranges. Here they are, ranked from largest to smallest.
- Range: Alaska and western Yukon territory
- Weight: Bulls weigh 1,200 to 1,800 pounds; Cows weigh 800 to 1,300 pounds
Northwestern Moose (or Western Canada Moose)
- Range: Northwestern Canada down to northern Wisconsin and Michigan
- Weight: Bulls weigh 800 to 1,600 pounds; Cows weigh 600 to 800 pounds
Eastern Moose (or Eastern Canada Moose)
- Range: Eastern Canada and New England
- Weight: Bulls weigh 1,100 to 1,400 pounds; Cows weigh 600 to 800 pounds
- Range: Rocky Mountains from southern Canada down to northern Utah and Colorado
- Weight: Bulls weigh up to 1,000 pounds; Cows weigh 500 to 800 pounds
How Tall Is a Moose?
An Alaskan bull moose will stand 6 feet high (or even slightly taller) at the shoulder, with its head and rack towering a several feet above that while at attention. For reference, an average thoroughbred horse stands 5 feet, 4 inches at the shoulder, or withers. A big bull elk stands 5 feet tall at the shoulder, according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
How Big Are Moose Antlers?
Bull moose grow impressively large antlers each spring and summer and then shed their racks in the winter. Hunters measure a moose rack in total inches using the Boone & Crockett Club scoring system, which counts width of spread, number of points, width of the palms, length of the palms, and circumference of the main beams.
The top scoring moose of all time scored 266 4/8 inches and was killed in the lower Yukon River of Alaska in 2010. Rex J. Nick shot the monster bull at 65 yards, according to B&C.
Moose racks are more simply measured by the width of their spread—which is the distance from the outside of one antler to the other. An Alaskan bull moose with a spread of 70 inches is considered a giant by almost any hunter. For Canada moose (Eastern and Northwestern), a 50-inch spread is usually deemed a trophy bull. Shiras bulls with 40-inch spreads are big. The world record Shiras bull scored 205 4/8 points and was killed in 1952, according to B&C.
In 2017 Alaskan hunter Israel Payton made headlines after killing a monster bull moose with an 80-inch spread. For reference, that’s more than 6.5 feet in length. Standing upright, it would be taller than the average NBA player.
Read Next: 40 Biggest Moose Ever Taken
Packing Out a Moose
If you really want to know how big a moose is, you should try packing one out of the bush. Experienced moose hunters advise to never shoot a bull farther than one mile away from camp, a road, or a river where you can pull up with a boat. Moose are so massive that packing out all of their meat can become a backbreaking job. If you kill a bull too deep into the backcountry, you may never get it out. A 1,600-pound moose will dress out at about 950 pounds, yielding approximately 500 pounds of meat, according to ADFG.
The first moose that I ever killed fell dead in a snowy pine thicket on a hillside in British Columbia. When I got up close to him, I felt as though I had killed a dinosaur. With his 50-inch rack, impossibly heavy head, and hulking shoulders, the bull was the most impressive critter I’d ever laid my hands on. My guide Colin and I spent the next hour or so quartering the bull, and the next several hours packing the meat and rack down to our side-by-side. The vehicle was only about a half-mile away, but in the snow and with frame packs loaded, it felt much farther. On the first trip down we carried a hindquarter each, weighing well over 100 pounds. We had to put our packs on while sitting down, and then Colin had to pull me to my feet because the load was too burdensome for me to stand up on my own. The next trip, we each carried a shoulder, weighing maybe 70 pounds. On the last trip Colin carried backstraps, tenderloins, and scrap meat while I carried the head—and weight no longer mattered.
There are easier ways. The second moose I killed died near a logging road in Alberta. My outfitter looped a long, heavy-duty cable around its rack. He then ran the cable through a pulley that was attached to the hitch of a pickup truck and then finally secured it to another pickup. He slowly drove the second truck while the first truck served as an anchor for the pulley. With a little guidance, the bull slid through the snow right to the road. There we loaded it into the truck bed by attaching a rope to its antlers and dragging it up slowly with the other truck (running the rope over the top of the cab).
Because of a bull’s impressive size and the habitat in which he lives, many Alaskan and Canadian hunters have specialized rigs for hauling moose out of the bush. Call them custom moose buggies, if you will. So, how big is a moose, you ask? Big enough to inspire its own category of redneck ingenuity.
Read Next: Top Moose Cartridges and Bullets
How big is the largest moose?
The largest moose subspecies in North America is the Alaskan moose. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the heaviest Alaskan moose weighed 1,808 pounds.
How big is a moose compared to a grizzly bear?
Adult moose are substantially larger than grizzly bears. An adult male grizzly or brown bear can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, but they’re often much smaller. However grizzly bears still commonly catch and kill moose.
Is moose meat good to eat?
Moose meat is not good, it is excellent. Think of it like beef but with better flavor. Read staff writer Tyler Freel’s perspective on why moose steak is the best steak.
Is moose the biggest animal in the deer family?
The moose is the largest surviving member of the deer family. The extinct Irish elk (which was neither an elk nor exclusively lived in what is now Ireland) was bigger. It stood 7 feet tall at the shoulder and had antlers that spanned 12 feet, according to Berkeley University.
Final Thoughts on “How Big Is a Moose?”
A great bull moose is big enough to haunt an aspiring hunter’s dreams and break a successful hunter’s back. Rutting bull moose are known to be so aggressive that they sometimes kill each other. Cow moose that are in survival mode by late winter have been known to pummel dog sled teams and anything else that disturbs them.
But most of the time moose are shy and elusive critters. They prefer thick cover where they can disappear in an instant, despite their enormous size.