Cervidae (Goldfuss, 1820)
* Cervidae on Mammal species of the World.
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 horned 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.
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, but the terms vary with dialect, and especially according to the size of the species. For many larger deer the male is a stag and the female a hind, while for other 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.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.
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 Park, Glacier National Park (Canada), Yoho National Park, and Kootenay National Park on the British Columbia side, and Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and Glacier National Park (U.S.) 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 Plains 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 Minor, the Caucasus Mountains, and Northwestern Iran. "European" Fallow Deer historically lived over much of Europe during the Ice Ages, but afterwards became restricted primarily to the Anatolian Peninsula, in present-day Turkey. 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 Park in Spain, the Veluwe in the Netherlands, the Ardennes in Belgium, and Białowieża National Park of Poland. Spain, Eastern Europe, and the Caucasus Mountains 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.
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, Mongolians, and Koreans. Like the Sami people of Finland and Scandinavia, the Tungusic peoples, Mongolians, 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 Park, Dudhwa National Park, and Chitwan National Park are most famous. Sri Lanka's Wilpattu National Park and Yala National Park 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 Yai.
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 Zealand 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.
Deer weights generally range from 40 to 200 kilograms. 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 Rùm, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Peninsula of Russia 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 States is imported from New Zealand.
Deer were originally brought to New Zealand 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.
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 China and Korea.
It is thought that the new world group originates from the forests of North America and Siberia, the old world deer in Asia.
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.
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 Hertfordshire, England and its county town of Hertford; both are examples of canting arms.
Several Norwegian municipalities have a stag or stag's head in their arms: Gjemnes, Hitra, Hjartdal, Rendalen and Voss. A deer appears on the arms of the Israeli Postal Authority (see Hebrew Wikipedia page.
* For the role of deer in mythology, see deer in mythology.
Cap Badge of the Gordon Highlanders
* 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).
1. ^ "www.bartleby.com". www.bartleby.com. http://www.bartleby.com/61/75/D0087500.html. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
Source: Wikispecies, Wikipedia: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License