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Deer

( Originally Published 1936 )

The Deer resemble the antelopes, but are at once distinguished from other ruminants by their horns, or, more properly, antlers, which are solid through-out, generally more or less branched, and cast every year. While growing, they are protected by a covering of skin clothed with short hair, and in this condition they are said to be " in the velvet." When the horns are fully developed, the velvet dries up and peels off, leaving them bare and hard, like bone. They thus become formidable fighting weapons, and are used as such by the males, in their combats for the leadership of the herd.

So far as is known, there are no deer in Africa or Australia, their place in Africa being taken by the antelopes. In Central Asia there are several large and handsome forms resembling the Red Deer in shape and in the character of horns, and others that are more like the American Elk, or Wapiti. In North America several species are found, and in South America there are a few well-marked but comparatively small and insignificant forms of deer. For grace and beauty of form the deer family are unsurpassed, their magnificent horns, delicate limbs, and stately carriage giving them a style not possessed by any other mammal. The males are frequently killed in their savage encounters with each other during the fall and winter months, but after the horns are shed the stag becomes shy and retiring and does not regain its fighting qualities until the horns are thoroughly out of the velvet. Nearly all are animals of very great speed, owing to their powerfully developed hindquarters. The flesh, called venison, is most palatable, and is highly valued for food by the natives of the countries inhabited by deer.

In common with certain other ruminants, the Deer family possess exterior glands on various parts of the body, in many species on the face below the corner of the eye, and in others on different parts of the legs and body. The use of these glands is not definitely known, but they are supposed to aid the animal in tracking other members of its family, and when the Deer is alarmed or excited they are expanded to the fullest extent.

Barking Deer (Cervulus muntjac)

The Muntjacs, or Barking Deer, are small animals, about three feet long, common in India, Burma, Ceylon, the Malay Peninsula, and large adjacent islands. It is dark reddish-brown above, white below. The legs are short, the back arched, and the male has short, straight antlers running obliquely back-wards and slightly divided at the extremity, and short brow antlers, curving inwards. It also has large up-per canine teeth, which are used in fighting, but those of the female are short; her horns also are rudimentary. See Plate 24, Fig. 112. The voice of this deer is a peculiar sharp bark, like that of a dog.

The Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)

The Red Deer is perhaps the most widely known of any species, having figured in the history of Europe for many centuries. It is a large animal, nearly equalling in size the American elk, or wapiti, and has large and many-branched antlers, in adult males cup-shaped at the extremity and projecting in three points, or prongs. See Plate 24, Fig. 109. At present the Red Deer is found in a semi-domesticated state in many of the parks and preserves both in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe. A large, wild form is found in the eastern part of Europe and in Central Asia, and the finest specimens are said to come from Siberia.

The Red Stag is, and has been, often depicted in art, particularly by German and English painters. Landseer, for example, made a specialty of painting this splendid Deer, and at present in Germany there are several painters who confine themselves almost exclusively to pictures of this animal. In bearing it is extremely haughty and graceful, and serves as a typical example of the deer family.

In Scotland the Red Stag is hunted in several different ways, but principally by the method known as deer-stalking, in which the hunter endeavours to creep up on the deer, concealing himself as much as possible until near enough to get a good shot. Large dogs known as deerhounds, a shaggy-haired variety of greyhound, are also used in connection with this sport. In Germany also great numbers of Red Deer are preserved in royal parks, and every year at certain seasons great hunts are organised and attended by many of the nobility, when the deer are driven by certain positions in the forests and shot from ambush as they pass. In France and in parts of England they are hunted with hounds who pursue the deer, the hunters following on horseback.

When driven to bay, the Red Stag is a formidable antagonist, and uses his sharply-pointed horns to good advantage. The females are devoid of horns, and the young are thickly spotted with white. In winter the colouring is somewhat more greyish than in summer, and the neck is clothed with long stiff hair, which gives a very thick appearance to that part of the body.

American Elk, or Wapiti (Cervus canadensis)

In this country the place of the Red Deer is taken by the Wapiti, or American Elk, of greater size and differing in certain characters, but having antlers that much resemble those of the European species. At one time found in many parts of North America, it is now confined chiefly to the far Western States, where it may still be met with in quite large herds, usually frequenting the neighbourhood of streams. The general ground colour is reddish-brown on the upper portions of the body and darker beneath, with a whitish patch on the under part of the head and on the rump. See Plate 24, Fig. 113.

The cry, or challenge, of the male Wapiti is a singular nasal whistle which may be heard for a considerable distance. In the fall this piercing cry rings like a bugle-note through the clear air of the regions inhabited by the Wapiti, and is answered by any male that chances to be within ear-shot. There is no finer sight in the animal world than the appearance of this splendid stag advancing slowly with head up-raised to meet his adversary.

Virgina Deer (Dama virginianus)

Found chiefly in the eastern parts of the United States, extending from Canada into Florida, and varying in colour at different places and seasons, is the Virginia Deer. The horns of this species are unlike those of any other. Sharply recurved at a short distance above the head, they bend well for-ward, almost meeting at their tips, and have several small projecting points, but are in no way palmated, or flattened.

It is a comparatively small animal, about the size of the fallow deer, although the bucks are heavier, and the legs and feet are more delicate. The colour is very beautiful, the winter coat dark brown or grey, and white on the under parts. The tail, which is very long, for a deer, is white on the under surface, and when startled or alarmed the animal has a curious habit of waving this member back and forth like a flag. The ears are long and delicately made, the eye is large, dark, and beautifully soft in expression; and altogether the Virginia Deer is most graceful and charming in appearance. The young, as is usual with the deer family, are thickly covered with white spots, which vanish as they grow older.

In the western part of the United States, particularly in hilly regions, is a form known as the Mule Deer (Dama macrotis), so-called on account of its extremely long ears. In general colour it closely resembles the preceding species, but is somewhat larger and more heavily-built, and the horns are longer and have more definite branches.

Fallow Deer (Cervus dama)

This is a well known European species, smaller than the Red Deer and differently coloured—a rich reddish-brown, spotted with white, the under surface white, and the spots remaining throughout life. In winter it is greyer, and both white and black or dark brown specimens are found in the parks of England. The males only are antlered, the antlers being pal-mated, or shovel-shaped, and very large in proportion to the size. The Fallow Deer is native to South-ern Europe, but has long been naturalised in England and other parts of Northern and Central Europe.

A curious feature, particularly in the buck, or stag, is a lump, or protuberance, on the throat directly under the head, which gives a very characteristic appearance to the animal. The eye is somewhat sheep-like; indeed the female decidedly resembles a sheep, having a more woolly coat than the male. See Plate 25, Fig. 110. The fawns are pretty little creatures, covered with many white spots.

Roe Deer (Cervus capreolus)

A small form, standing not much more than two feet high at the shoulder, the Roe Deer is widely distributed throughout Europe and Western Asia. The male only has short, erect, three-pointed antlers, and no upper canine teeth, and the tail is very small, al-most rudimentary. The hair is a reddish-brown in summer, greyish-brown in winter, and more or less white on the under surface, hindquarters, and legs, and is much thicker in winter than in summer. See Plate 26, Fig. i 14. The Roe Deer is generally found in woods in small herds, often consisting of only a single family.

Moose (Alces machlis)

The Moose is the largest of the deer tribe, standing seven feet in height at the shoulder. The male of this magnificent animal is armed with a tremendous pair of shovel-shaped horns, edged with enormous points and projections, and measuring as much as six feet across in large specimens. It is ungainly in appearance, having extremely long legs, and a very short tail; the head, too, is singular in form, the heavy nose and upper lip drooping well down over the mouth. Its sense of smell is remarkably acute, and the animal is on that account hunted with difficulty, although at certain seasons, particularly in the fall, the male may be drawn from concealment by imitating his call. American and Indian hunters do this by blowing through a piece of birch bark twisted in the shape of a cone. The colour of the Moose is dark reddish-brown, becoming lighter on the under parts and grey on the legs. The feet are enormously large, strong, and heavily made, with well-developed dewclaws. See Plate 25, Fig. III. When the animal is angry, the thick black mane over the shoulders is raised, and the ears laid back close against the head like those of an angry horse. The Moose is very fond of the neighbourhood of water, and feeds largely on water-lily roots, wading in ponds up to its neck, then reaching down and tearing them up from the bottom with its teeth.

Owing to its long legs, the speed in travelling is very great, and the chase of Moose is not often at-tempted unless the snow is deep on the ground, when they break through the crust and soon become exhausted. They are then pursued by hunters on snow-shoes.

The males fight desperately in the fall, and at this time will not hesitate to attack any one who trespasses on their domains. Occasionally two combatants have been seen with horns locked together so that they could not be drawn apart.

The largest and finest specimens are found in Alaska, where the males always develop enormous and handsomely-shaped horns. In general disposition they are shy, lying concealed during the day in some thicket, and feeding at night; and in winter they make what is known as " yards," a number of them herding together and tramping down the snow in the vicinity. To these places they are sometimes tracked by hunters, who usually kill indiscriminately all the animals found.

An animal as large as the Moose and closely resembling it in form has been found in a fossil state in some parts of New Jersey and elsewhere, but the horns differ considerably in shape.

In Europe the Moose is called the Elk, and specimens there are somewhat lighter in colour than the American species.

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)

There are several species of Reindeer, all found in sub-arctic regions—some in the extreme northern parts of America, others in Lapland, Greenland, and Newfoundland. All are similar in form, however, differing chiefly in the size and shape of their horns and in the colour of their fur. The North American species, usually called the Caribou, is the largest and handsomest. These animals are used as beasts of bur-den by the Greenlanders and Laplanders, and are able to draw sledges for long distances over the snow and ice. Their fur is also largely used for making articles of clothing.

The hoofs of the Reindeer are very widely spread, in order to support the animal on the snow, and the nose is almost entirely covered with hair, only a small spot at the tip remaining bare. The ears are small and are also thickly covered with hair, and the whole body in fact is enveloped in dense, soft fur, dark grey in summer, paler in winter. The horns differ greatly from those of any other deer, the main shaft being round and smooth in character, and very much branched and spread apart at the tips. A singular-shaped tine projects from the base of the horns well forward over the nose, and is thought by some authorities to be of use in scraping away the snow in search of food. See Plate 26, Fig. 115.

Musk Deer (Moschus moschiferus)

The Musk Deer differ from the other Cervidae in having no horns in either sex. Both have canine teeth, however, and in the male these are very largely developed, curved inwards, and are used like horns as weapons of offence and defence. The male is provided with a pouch which yields the perfume called musk. The species figured is a small animal, not exceeding two feet in height and three in length, and is found in the Himalayas and other high mountains and plateaux in Central Asia. The toes, or hoofs, are long, and may be widely spread apart; dewclaws also are present. The colour varies from brown to reddish or yellowish, above, with the under surface of the body whitish. See Plate 22, Fig. 105.



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