A full-grown bull elk resembles a deer, but is much larger, often weighing over 700 pounds and standing nearly 9 feet tall with the antlers included. Their coats range from dark brown to tan seasonally, and they have thick, shaggy brown manes that hang from the neck to the chest.
The bull elk's appearance changes in a few ways depending on what time of year it is. The coat morphs from dark brown in winter into a lighter tan in the summer months. The antlers shed completely in March and begin to grow back in May, starting off small, soft, and covered in a fuzzy skin coating called velvet. By September the antlers harden into solid bone. They may eventually reach a possible height of four feet and can weigh up to 40 pounds. These antlers grow back in time for the breeding season that takes place in late summer, and the elks use them when competing with other bulls for mates.
There are six elk subspecies in North America, two of which are extinct. The differences include minor differences in appearance and behavior. Elk are some of the largest land mammals in North America, along with bison, moose, and grizzly bears.