Pere David's Deer
PERE DAVID'S DEER, the mi-lou of the Chinese, an aberrant and strangely mule-like deer (q.v.), the first evidence of whose existence was made known in Europe by the Abbe (then Pere) David, who in 1865 obtained the skin of a specimen from the herd kept at that time in the imperial park at Pekin. This skin, with the skull and antlers, was sent to Paris, where it was described in 1866 by Professor Milne-Edwards. In lacking a browtine, and dividing in a regular fork-like manner some distance above the burr, the large and cylindrical antlers of this species conform to the general structural type characteristic of the American deer. The front prong of the main fork, however, curves somewhat forward and again divides at least once; while the hind prong is of great length undivided, and directed backwards in a manner found in no other deer. As regards general form, the most distinctive feature is the great relative length of the tail, which reaches the hocks, and is donkey-like rather than deer-like in form. The head is long and narrow, with a prominent ridge for the support of the antlers, moderate-sized ears, and a narrow and pointed muzzle. A gland and tuft are present on the skin of the outer side of the upper part of the hind cannon-bone; but, unlike American deer, there is no gland on the inner side of the hock. Another feature by which this species differs from the American deer is the conformation of the bones of the lower part of the fore-leg, which have the same structure as in the red deer group. The coat is of moderate length, but the hair on the neck and throat of the old stags is elongated to form a mane and fringe. Although new-born fawns are spotted, the adults are in the main uniformly coloured; the general tint of the coat at all seasons being reddish tawny with a more or less marked tendency to grey. It has been noticed at Woburn Abbey that the antlers are shed and replaced twice a year.
The true home of this cteer has never been ascertained, and probably never will be; all the few known specimens now living being kept in confinement the great majority in the duke of Bedford's park at Woburn, Bedfordshire. (R. L.*)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)