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Fallow Deer

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The visitor to England notices the deer which run in the large wooded parks as do our cattle in the fields of the American farmer. These are the Fallow deer. There it is both ornamental and prized for its meat called venison, which is fat and juicy. It has beautiful wide spreading horns. The buck or male deer is about three feet high at the shoulder. The head is short and broad, the tail between seven and eight inches long. The color of the animal, both buck and doe, is a rich yellowish-brown in summer; sometimes spotted with white. In winter the tints are more somber and grayish. -

There is, however, a dark brown variety in which the spots are scarcely distinguishable, or wanting, and specimens may be seen exhibiting every gradation in color from pure white nearly to black. The hair is comparatively short and fine, and there is no mane on the neck and throat.

The fallow deer is a native of Northern Africa and the countries bordering the Mediterranean, and in a wild state is still abundant in Sardinia, Spain, and some of the islands of the Grecian Archipelago. From these countries it has been introduced into Central Europe, where it flourishes well, although needing some protection during the winter in the more northerly regions. At what period this introduction took place is, however, quite uncertain, although in Britain it was evidently many centuries ago.

Bell observes that "fallow deer are gregarious to ,a great extent, associating in large herds, the bucks apart from the does, except in the pairing season. Most persons must be familiar with their boldness and the confident manner in which they will approach mankind, where they are well accustomed to his presence. . . Like the other species, the fallow deer feeds on herbage. It has been noted that it is especially fond of horse-chestnuts, which the bucks knock down from the branches with their antlers, and this tree is consequently frequently planted in deer-parks. The young male exhibits the first signs of his antlers in his second year, when they make their appearance as simple snags; the animal being then called a pricket. In the fifth year the antlers attain their full development, although some additional small points may be added in the following season."

It has been stated that the dark variety of the fallow deer was introduced from Norway by James the First, on account of its hardy constitution. This, however, has been proved to be incorrect. This breed existed in Windsor Park as far back as the year 1465. The fallow deer of Windsor Park include both the spotted and the brown breeds; but in Epping Forest only the latter occur.

Locally they are referred to as "the old forest breed," and are comparatively small in size, of a uniformly dark brown color, and with very attenuated antlers peculiarities which have no doubt been brought about by continued isolation, without the admixture of any fresh stock for many generations. It is remarkable that no individuals of the true fallow color (i. e., yellow dun) or spotted with white are ever seen in this forest. This in some measure proves the antiquity of the stock, which would otherwise show in their progeny a reversion to one or other of these varieties, which elsewhere are so common. The keepers assert that not only are there no spotted or fallow varieties here, but that they have never observed any spotted fawns, the latter being dark like their parents. If this observation be correct, it is very remarkable; for it is generally supposed that the fawns of all fallow deer are spotted at birth, and that, except in the permanently spotted variety, the spots disappear with age. The venison of the fallow deer is generally considered superior to that of the red deer.

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