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Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. They include for example Moose, Red Deer, Reindeer, Roe and Chital. Animals from related families within the order Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates) are often also considered to be deer – these include muntjac and water deer. Male (and a few female) deer of all species (except the Chinese Water deer who only have short tusks instead) grow and shed new antlers each year – in this they differ from permanently horn animals such as antelope – these are in the same order as deer and may bear a superficial resemblance. The musk deer of Asia and Water Chevrotain (or Mouse Deer) of tropical African and Asian forests are not usually regarded as true deer and form their own families, Moschidae and Tragulidae, respectively.

Terminology

The word "deer" was originally quite broad in meaning, but became more specific over time. In Middle English der (O.E. dēor) meant a wild animal of any kind (as opposed to cattle, which then meant any domestic livestock). This general sense gave way to the modern sense by the end of the Middle English period, around 1500. Cognates of English "deer" in several other languages still have the general sense of "animal – for example German Tier, Dutch dier, and Scandinavian djur, dyr, dýr. "Deer" is the same in the plural as in the singular.

For most deer the male is called a buck and the female is a doe, according to the size of the species. For many medium-sized deer the male is a stag and the female a hind, while for many larger deer the same words are used as for cattle: bull and cow. Terms for young deer vary similarly, with that of most being called a fawn and that of the larger species calf; young of the smallest kinds may be a kid. A group of deer of any kind is a herd. Usage of all these terms may also vary according to dialect. The adjective of relation pertaining to deer is cervine; like the family name "Cervidae" this is from Latin cervus, "deer."

The word 'hart' is an old alternative word for "stag", especially in a (British) Medieval hunting context.

Habitat

Deer are widely distributed, and hunted, with indigenous representatives in all continents except Antarcticamarker and Australia, though Africa has only one native species, the Red Deer, confined to the Atlas Mountains in the northwest of the continent.

Deer live in a variety of biomes ranging from tundra to the tropical rainforest. While often associated with forests, many deer are ecotone species that live in transitional areas between forests and thickets (for cover) and prairie and savanna (open space). The majority of large deer species inhabit temperate mixed deciduous forest, mountain mixed coniferous forest, tropical seasonal/dry forest, and savanna habitats around the world. Clearing open areas within forests to some extent may actually benefit deer populations by exposing the understory and allowing the types of grasses, weeds, and herbs to grow that deer like to eat. Additionally, access to adjacent croplands may also benefit deer. However, adequate forest or brush cover must still be provided for populations to grow and thrive.

Small species of brocket deer and pudús of Central and South America, and muntjacs of Asia generally occupy dense forests and are less often seen in open spaces, with the possible exception of the Indian Muntjac. There are also several species of deer that are highly specialized, and live almost exclusively in mountains, grasslands, swamps, and "wet" savannas, or riparian corridors surrounded by deserts. Some deer have a circumpolar distribution in both North America and Eurasia. Examples include the caribou that live in Arctic tundra and taiga (boreal forests) and moose that inhabit taiga and adjacent areas. Huemul Deer (taruca and Chilean Huemul) of South America's Andes fill an ecological niche of the ibex or Wild Goat, with the fawns behaving more like goat kids.

The highest concentration of large deer species in temperate North America lies in the Canadian Rocky Mountain and Columbia Mountain Regions between Alberta and British Columbia where all five North American deer species (White-tailed deer, Mule deer, Caribou, Elk, and Moose) can be found. This region has several clusters of national parks including Mount Revelstoke National Parkmarker, Glacier National Park marker, Yoho National Parkmarker, and Kootenay National Parkmarker on the British Columbia side, and Banff National Parkmarker, Jasper National Parkmarker, and Glacier National Park marker on the Alberta and Montana sides. Mountain slope habitats vary from moist coniferous/mixed forested habitats to dry subalpine/pine forests with alpine meadows higher up. The foothills and river valleys between the mountain ranges provide a mosaic of cropland and deciduous parklands. The rare woodland caribou have the most restricted range living at higher altitudes in the subalpine meadows and alpine tundra areas of some of the mountain ranges. Elk and Mule Deer both migrate between the alpine meadows and lower coniferous forests and tend to be most common in this region. Elk also inhabit river valley bottomlands, which they share with White-tailed deer. The White-tailed deer have recently expanded their range within the foothills and river valley bottoms of the Canadian Rockies owing to conversion of land to cropland and the clearing of coniferous forests allowing more deciduous vegetation to grow up the mountain slopes. They also live in the aspen parklands north of Calgary and Edmonton, where they share habitat with the moose. The adjacent Great Plainsmarker grassland habitats are left to herds of Elk, American Bison, and pronghorn antelope.
The Eurasian Continent (including the Indian Subcontinent) boasts the most species of deer in the world, with most species being found in Asia. Europe, in comparison, has lower diversity in plant and animal species. However, many national parks and protected reserves in Europe do have populations of Red Deer, Roe Deer, and Fallow Deer. These species have long been associated with the continent of Europe, but also inhabit Asia Minormarker, the Caucasus Mountainsmarker, and Northwestern Iranmarker. "European" Fallow Deer historically lived over much of Europe during the Ice Ages, but afterwards became restricted primarily to the Anatolianmarker Peninsula, in present-day Turkeymarker. Present-day Fallow deer populations in Europe are a result of historic man-made introductions of this species first to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, then eventually to the rest of Europe. They were initially park animals that later escaped and reestablished themselves in the wild. Historically, Europe's deer species shared their deciduous forest habitat with other herbivores such as the extinct tarpan (forest horse), extinct aurochs (forest ox), and the endangered wisent (European bison). Good places to see deer in Europe include the Scottish Highlands, the Austrian Alps, and the wetlands between Austria, Hungary, and Czech Republic. Some fine National Parks include Doñana National Parkmarker in Spain, the Veluwemarker in the Netherlands, the Ardennesmarker in Belgium, and Białowieża National Parkmarker of Poland. Spain, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus Mountainsmarker still have virgin forest areas that are not only home to sizable deer populations but also for other animals that were once abundant such as the wisent, Eurasian Lynx, Spanish lynx, wolves, and Brown Bears.
Running tracks of a white-tail deer with clear dew claw marks
The highest concentration of large deer species in temperate Asia occurs in the mixed deciduous forests, mountain coniferous forests, and taiga bordering North Korea, Manchuria (Northeastern China), and the Ussuri Region (Russia). These are among some of the richest deciduous and coniferous forests in the world where one can find Siberian Roe Deer, Sika Deer, Elk, and Moose. Asian Caribou occupy the northern fringes of this region along the Sino-Russian border.

Deer such as the Sika Deer, Thorold's deer, Central Asian Red Deer, and Elk have historically been farmed for their antlers by Han Chinese, Turkic peoples, Tungusic peoples, Mongoliansmarker, and Koreans. Like the Sami people of Finlandmarker and Scandinavia, the Tungusic peoples, Mongoliansmarker, and Turkic peoples of Southern Siberia, Northern Mongolia, and the Ussuri Region have also taken to raising semi-domesticated herds of Asian Caribou.

The highest concentration of large deer species in the tropics occurs in Southern Asia in Northern India's Indo-Gangetic Plain Region and Nepal's Terai Region. These fertile plains consist of tropical seasonal moist deciduous, dry deciduous forests, and both dry and wet savannas that are home to Chital, Hog Deer, Barasingha, Indian Sambar, and Indian Muntjac. Grazing species such as the endangered Barasingha and very common Chital are gregarious and live in large herds. Indian Sambar can be gregarious but are usually solitary or live in smaller herds. Hog Deer are solitary and have lower densities than Indian Muntjac. Deer can be seen in several national parks in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka of which Kanha National Parkmarker, Dudhwa National Parkmarker, and Chitwan National Parkmarker are most famous. Sri Lanka's Wilpattu National Parkmarker and Yala National Parkmarker have large herds of Indian Sambar and Chital. The Indian sambar are more gregarious in Sri Lanka than other parts of their range and tend to form larger herds than elsewhere.

The Chao Praya River Valley of Thailand was once primarily tropical seasonal moist deciduous forest and wet savanna that hosted populations of Hog Deer, the now-extinct Schomburgk's Deer, the Eld's Deer, Indian Sambar, and Indian Muntjac. Both the Hog Deer and Eld's Deer are rare, whereas Indian Sambar and Indian Muntjac thrive in protected national parks such as Khao Yaimarker.

Many of these South Asian and Southeast Asian deer species also share their habitat with various herbivores such as Asian Elephants, various Asian rhinoceros species, various antelope species (such as nilgai, Four-horned Antelope, blackbuck, and Indian gazelle in India), and wild oxen (such as Wild Asian Water Buffalo, gaur, banteng, and kouprey). How different herbivores can survive together in a given area is each species have different food preferences, although there may be some overlap.

Australia has six introduced species of deer that have established sustainable wild populations from acclimatisation society releases in the 19th Century. These are Fallow Deer, Red Deer, Sambar Deer, Hog Deer, Rusa deer, and Chital. Red Deer introduced into New Zealandmarker in 1851 from English and Scottish stock were domesticated in deer farms by the late 1960s and are common farm animals there now. Seven other species of deer were introduced into New Zealand but none are as widespread as Red Deer.

Biology

Baby fawn's first steps
Extant deer range in size from the Northern Pudu to the Moose. They generally have lithe, compact bodies and long, powerful legs suited for rugged woodland terrain. Deer are also excellent jumpers and swimmers. Deer are ruminants, or cud-chewers, and have a four-chambered stomach. The teeth of deer are adapted to feeding on vegetation, and like other ruminants, they lack upper incisors, instead having a tough pad at the front of their upper jaw. Some deer, such as those on the island of Rùmmarker, do consume meat when it is available.The Chinese water deer, Tufted deer and muntjac have enlarged upper canine teeth forming sharp tusks, while other species often lack upper canines altogether. The cheek teeth of deer have crescent ridges of enamel, which enable them to grind a wide variety of vegetation. The dental formula for deer is:

Nearly all deer have a facial gland in front of each eye. The gland contains a strongly scented pheromone, used to mark its home range. Bucks of a wide range of species open these glands wide when angry or excited. All deer have a liver without a gallbladder. Deer also have a tapetum lucidum which gives them sufficiently good night vision.


Nearly all cervids are so-called uniparental species: the fawns are cared for by the mother only. A doe generally has one or two fawns at a time (triplets, while not unknown, are uncommon). The gestation period is anywhere up to ten months for the European Roe Deer. Most fawns are born with their fur covered with white spots, though in many species they lose these spots by the end of their first winter. In the first twenty minutes of a fawn's life, the fawn begins to take its first steps. Its mother licks it clean until it is almost free of scent, so predators will not find it. Its mother leaves often, and the fawn does not like to be left behind. Sometimes its mother must gently push it down with her foot. The fawn stays hidden in the grass for one week until it is strong enough to walk with its mother. The fawn and its mother stay together for about one year. A male usually never sees his mother again, but females sometimes come back with their own fawns and form small herds.


Deer are selective feeders. They are usually browsers, and primarily feed on leaves. They have small, unspecialized stomachs by ruminant standards, and high nutrition requirements. Rather than attempt to digest vast quantities of low-grade, fibrous food as, for example, sheep and cattle do, deer select easily digestible shoots, young leaves, fresh grasses, soft twigs, fruit, fungi, and lichens. They can, however, digest cellulose if necessary.

Antlers

With the exception of the Chinese Water Deer, which have tusks, all male deer have antlers. Sometimes a female will have a small stub. The only female deer with antlers are Reindeer (Caribou). Antlers grow as highly vascular spongy tissue covered in a skin called velvet. Before the beginning of a species' mating season, the antlers calcify under the velvet and become hard bone. The velvet is then rubbed off leaving dead bone which forms the hard antlers. After the mating season, the pedicle and the antler base are separated by a layer of softer tissue, and the antler falls off.


One way that many hunters are able to track main paths that the deer travel on is because of their "rubs". A rub is used to deposit scent from glands near the eye and forehead and physically mark territory.

During the mating season, bucks use their antlers to fight one another for the opportunity to attract mates in a given herd. The two bucks circle each other, bend back their legs, lower their heads, and charge.

Each species has its own characteristic antler structure – for example white-tailed deer antlers include a series of tines sprouting upward from a forward-curving main beam, while Fallow Deer and Moose antlers are palmate, with a broad central portion. Mule deer (and Black-tailed Deer), species within the same genus as the white-tailed deer, instead have bifurcated (or branched) antlers—that is, the main beam splits into two, each of which may split into two more. Young males of many deer, and the adults of some species, such as brocket deer and pudus, have antlers which are single spikes.

Most species of deer in the "True Deer" subfamily (Cervinae) have large, impressive antlers with several tines that are highly prized by game hunters and collectors. Four Members of the Odocoleinae subfamily whose antlers are also popular and sought after are the moose, caribou, White-tailed deer, and mule deer. The most impressive White-tailed deer antlers come from populations in Texas, the Northern Great Plainsmarker Region,and the Great Lakesmarker/Midwest Agricultural Region. The most impressive mule deer antlers come from populations in the Rocky Mountains and the deserts of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. The most impressive moose and caribou antlers come from populations living in Siberiamarker, Canadamarker, and Alaskamarker. For Elk and Red Deer, a stag having 14 points is an "imperial", and a stag having 12 points is a "royal". Occasional individual red deer males may have no antlers: these are known as hummels, and they may grow significantly larger than normal males.



Color

Piebald Deer

A piebald deer is a deer with a brown and white spotting pattern which is not caused by parasites or diseases. They can appear to be almost entirely white. In addition to the non-standard coloration, other differences have been observed: bowing or Roman nose, overly arched spine (scoliosis), long tails, short legs, and underbites.
Piebald Doe


White Deer

Seneca County, New York State maintains the largest herd of white deer. White pigmented White-tailed Deer began populating the deer population in the area now known as the Conservation Area of the former Seneca Army Depot. The U.S. Army gave the white deer protection while managing the normal colored deer through hunting. The white deer coloration is the result of a recessive gene.

Evolution

The earliest fossil deer including Heteroprox date from the Oligocene of Europe, and resembled the modern muntjacs. Later species were often larger, with more impressive antlers. They rapidly spread to the other continents, even for a time occupying much of northern Africa, where they are now almost wholly absent. Some extinct deer had huge antlers, larger than those of any living species. Examples include Eucladoceros, and the giant deer Megaloceros, whose antlers stretched to 3.5 metres across.

Economic significance

Deer have long had economic significance to humans. Deer meat, for which they are hunted and farmed, is called venison. Deer organ meat is called humble. See humble pie.

The Sami of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsulamarker of Russiamarker and other nomadic peoples of northern Asia use reindeer for food, clothing, and transport.

The caribou in North America is not domesticated or herded as is the case of reindeer (the same species) in Europe, but is important as a quarry animal to the Inuit. Most commercial venison in the United Statesmarker is imported from New Zealandmarker.

Deer were originally brought to New Zealandmarker by European settlers, and the deer population rose rapidly. This caused great environmental damage and was controlled by hunting and poisoning until the concept of deer farming developed in the 1960s. Deer farming has advanced into a significant economic activity in New Zealand with more than 3,000 farms running over 1 million deer in total. Deer products are exported to over 50 countries around the world, with New Zealand becoming well recognised as a source of quality venison and co-products.

Automobile collisions with deer can impose a significant cost on the economy. In the U.S., about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents cause about 150 human deaths and $1.1 billion in property damage annually.

Taxonomy

Note that the terms indicate the origin of the groups, not their modern distribution: the water deer, for example, is a New World species but is found only in Chinamarker and Koreamarker.

It is thought that the new world group originates from the forests of North America and Siberiamarker, the old world deer in Asia.

Subfamilies, genera and species

The family Cervidae is organized as follows:


Hybrid deer

In On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin wrote "Although I do not know of any thoroughly well-authenticated cases of perfectly fertile hybrid animals, I have some reason to believe that the hybrids from Cervulus vaginalis and Reevesii [...] are perfectly fertile." These two varieties of muntjac are currently considered the same species.

A number of deer hybrids are bred to improve meat yield in farmed deer. American Elk (or Wapiti) and Red Deer from the Old World can produce fertile offspring in captivity, and were once considered one species. Hybrid offspring, however, must be able to escape and defend themselves against predators, and these hybrid offspring are unable to do so in the wild state. Recent DNA, animal behavior studies, and morphology and antler characteristics have shown there are not one but three species of Red Deer: European Red Deer, Central Asian Red Deer, and American Elk or Wapiti. The European Elk is a different species and is known as moose in North America. The hybrids are about 30% more efficient in producing antlers by comparing velvet to body weight. Wapiti have been introduced into some European Red Deer herds to improve the Red Deer type, but not always with the intended improvement.

In New Zealand, where deer are introduced species, there are hybrid zones between Red Deer and North American Wapiti populations and also between Red Deer and Sika Deer populations. In New Zealand, Red Deer have been artificially hybridized with Pere David Deer in order to create a farmed deer which gives birth in spring. The initial hybrids were created by artificial insemination and back-crossed to Red Deer. However, such hybrid offspring can only survive in captivity free of predators.

In Canada, the farming of European Red Deer and Red Deer hybrids is considered a threat to native Wapiti. In Britain, the introduced Sika Deer is considered a threat to native Red Deer. Initial Sika Deer/Red Deer hybrids occur when young Sika stags expand their range into established red deer areas and have no Sika hinds to mate with. They mate instead with young Red hinds and produce fertile hybrids. These hybrids mate with either Sika or Red Deer (depending which species is prevalent in the area), resulting in mongrelization. Many of the Sika Deer which escaped from British parks were probably already hybrids for this reason. These hybrids do not properly inherit survival strategies and can only survive in either a captive state or when there are no predators.

In captivity, Mule Deer have been mated to White-tail Deer. Both male Mule Deer/female White-tailed Deer and male White-tailed Deer/female Mule Deer matings have produced hybrids. Less than 50% of the hybrid fawns survived their first few months. Hybrids have been reported in the wild but are disadvantaged because they don't properly inherit survival strategies. Mule Deer move with bounding leaps (all 4 hooves hit the ground at once, also called "stotting") to escape predators. Stotting is so specialized that only 100% genetically pure Mule Deer seem able to do it. In captive hybrids, even a one-eighth White-tail/seven-eighths Mule Deer hybrid has an erratic escape behaviour and would be unlikely to survive to breeding age. Hybrids do survive on game ranches where both species are kept and where predators are controlled by man.

Cultural significance

Heraldry

Deer are represented in heraldry by the stag or hart, or less often, by the hind, and the brocket (a young stag up to two years), respectively. Stag's heads and antlers also appear as charges. The old name for deer was simply cerf, and it is chiefly the head which appears on the ancient arms. Examples for deers in heraldry can be found in the arms of Hertfordshiremarker, England and its county town of Hertfordmarker; both are examples of canting arms.

Several Norwegian municipalities have a stag or stag's head in their arms: Gjemnesmarker, Hitramarker, Hjartdalmarker, Rendalenmarker and Vossmarker. A deer appears on the arms of the Israelimarker Postal Authority (see Hebrew Wikipedia page.

Image:Blason Raon aux bois.svg|
Arms of Raon-aux-Boismarker, Francemarker
Image:Wappen Dotternhausen.png|
Arms of Dotternhausenmarker, Germanymarker
Image:Thierachern-coat of arms.svg|
Arms of Thierachernmarker, Switzerlandmarker
Image:Wappen Friolzheim.png|
Arms of Friolzheimmarker, Germany
Image:Bauen-coat of arms.svg|
Arms of Bauenmarker, Switzerland
Image:Wappen Albstadt.png|
Arms of Albstadtmarker, Germany
Image:Earl Bathurst coa.png|
Arms of the Earls Bathurst
Image:Gjemnes_komm.png|
Arms of Gjemnesmarker, Norwaymarker
Image:Hitra_komm.png|
Arms of Hitramarker, Norway
Image:Hjartdal_komm.png|
Arms of Hjartdalmarker, Norway
Image:Voss_komm.png|
Arms of Vossmarker, Norwaymarker
Image:Rendalen_komm.png|
Arms of Rendalenmarker, Norway
Image:Coat of Arms of Balakhna (Nizhny Novgorod oblast) (1781).png|Arms of Balakhnamarker, RussiaImage:Aland coat of arms.svg|Arms of the province of Alandmarker, FinlandImage:POL Jelenia Góra COA.svg|Arms of the city Jelenia Goramarker, Poland

"Nature and Appearance of Deer, and how they can be hunted with dogs," taken from Livre du Roy Modus, created in the 14th century


Literature and art

  • In The Animals of Farthing Wood, a deer called The Great White Stag is the leader of all the animal residents of the nature reserve White Deer Park.
  • In The Queen, a 14 point "Imperial" stag plays a role in the film.
  • The Yaqui deer song (maso bwikam) accompanies the deer dance which is performed by a pascola [from the Spanish 'pascua', Easter] dancer (also known as a deer dancer). Pascolas will perform at religio-social functions many times of the year, but especially during Lent and Easter.
  • Deer are depicted in many materials by various pre-Hispanic civilizations in the Andes.
  • Several Germanmarker towns are called "Hirschberg", a name composed of Hirsch (deer) and Berg (hill or mountain).
  • The given name "Oscar" is considered to be derived from Gaelic, meaning "deer lover."
  • Among East European Jews, "Hirsh"—Yiddish for "stag"—was a common male name, and was among other others the name of several prominent Rabbis; in this community there was, however, no equivalent female name. In contemporary Israelmarker, several Hebrew names for this animal are commonly used as both male and female names. These include "Tzvi" (צבי) and "Eyal"(אייל)—two synonymous words for "stag"; "Tzviya" (צביה) and "Ayala" (איילה)—the respective parallel words for "Hind" or "Doe"; as well as "Ofer" (עופר) and "Ofra"(עפרה), respectively the male and female words for the young of this animal—which are all commonly used as first names among the Israeli population. In addition, there are Israelis having as their first name "Bambi", derived from the well-known Disney animated film.
  • Among the native Tlingit of southeast Alaska the deer is a symbol of peace, because a deer does not bite, get angry and is gentle. When peace was to be made a "hostage" from opposing clans would be taken to the opposite clan of those making peace and each opposing faction would have a hostage, called Ghuwukaan in a ceremony lasting several months. The name for [Sitka Blacktail] deer is Ghuwukaan. Making peace is called Ghuwukaan Khuwdzitee or "there will be a peace party." A name given to the "hostage" by his captors would be with the term "ghuwukaan" added such as Aank'weiyi Ghuwukaan (Flag Deer) or Dzagitgayaa Ghuwukaan (Hummingbird Deer).


See also



References

  1. Deer An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.
  2. Deer - info and games Sheppard Software.
  3. Oregon Big Game Regulations.
  4. Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
  5. Haa Khusteeyi-Our Culture; Dauenhauer & Dauenhauer, 1994, UW Press.


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