Information about: Deer

Index | Deer

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Deer. A genus of ruminant quadrupeds now constituting the family Cervidae, which some naturalists have divided into a number of genera, while others still regard it as forming only one. Deer are animals of graceful form, combining much compactness and strength with slenderness of limb and fleetness. They use their powerful horns for weapons of defense; but in general they trust to flight for safety. They have a long neck, a small head, which they carry high, large ears, and large full eyes. In most of them there is, below each eye, a sac or fold of the skin, sometimes very small, sometimes of considerable size, called the suborbital sinus, lachrymal sinus, or tearpit, the use of which is not well known. Deer have no cutting teeth in the upper but eight in the lower jaw; the males have usually two short canines in the upper but neither sex has any in the lower jaw. They are distinguished from all other ruminants by their solid branching horns (antlers), which in most of the species exist in the male sex only; the horns are deciduous, i.e., fall off annually, and are renewed with increase of size, and of breadth of palmation, and number of branches, according to the kind, until the animal has reached mature age. Deer are found in almost all parts of the globe except Australia and the south of Africa, their place in the latter region being supplied by antelopes in extraordinary number and variety. Some of them live amidst the snows of very northerly regions, and some in tropical forests. The greater number inhabit the warmer temperate countries; they are chiefly found in wide plains and hills of moderate height, none dwelling on these lofty mountain summits which are the chosen abode of some animals of the kindred families of Antilopidae, Capridae, and Moschidae, as the chamois and the bouquetin. The flesh (venison) of most kinds of deer is highly esteemed for the table. Deer have long been regarded as among the noblest objects of the chase. Only one species, the reindeer, can be said to have been fully domesticated and reduced to the service of man, although individuals of many species have been rendered very tame.