In North America, we call Alces alces “moose” because of a naming mixup by the first settlers from England. In Europe, the species is called “elk.” However, the elk of the British Isles were extinct by the Bronze Age, and the name was applied to almost any big deer. Thus, the settlers of the 17th century had no reference for what an actual “elk” looked like. So when they first encountered wapiti (Cervus canadensis), they called them “elk.” This meant that they needed a different name for Alces alces, so they borrowed one from the Algonquian languages.
View All