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Ernest Ingersoll

deer, antlers, purposes, buck and family


animals of the family Cervidcr (q.v.), which are noted for their grace of struc ture and their fleetnesss of motion. Since the earliest times they have been known as objects of the chase, and their meat, "venison," is con sidered a delicacy. The male deer is usually called "buck," but the male red deer of Europe is a ((stag," or when mature a chart" The female is called a "hind," or "doe?" In the lan guage of mediaeval venery each kind of deer, and each age of growing buck, has a distinctive name.

All deer have a coat of short fur, dull in tone, ranging from reddish-brown to gray on the upper surfaces, and usually white below. Those that are marked bear such markings on the face and throat and on the tail. Only a few genera are spotted. In most genera only the young (the fawns) are spotted, and lose their spots when they are about one year old.. Deer breed annually, the young, one or two at a birth, being produced in late spring. The fawns re main with their mothers until they are about a year old, when they are sufficiently mature to become independent. The grass-land deer, especially, are gregarious, and often gather in large herds at the approach of winter. These feed on the meadow herbage, whereas the forest deer eat the leaves, twigs, and buds of bushes.

The deer is valued not only as food (it is the main subsistence of some northern tribes), but for commercial purposes. The skins make a peculiarly strong, soft leather, known as buck skin; skins with the fur on are not of much account, as the hair is brittle and soon dis appears. The hoofs and horns are prized for ornamental purposes, especially the antlers of the roe-deer, which are utilized for making umbrella-handles, and for similar purposes; and the elk-horn, often employed in making knife handles. The Chinese also make a medicine

from stag-horn and they eat the antlers of cer tain species when in the velvet?" The reindeer is as valuable to the people of the frozen North as the camel is to the desert traveler. The In dians of the region north of Hudson Bay and Great Slave Lake are almost wholly dependent on the caribou.

Deer have long been bred in captivity as ornaments for parks, but only in the case of reindeer has thorough domestication succeeded. Considerable attention is beingpaid in those parts of the United States where large tracts of wild land are available to breeding the Ameri can deer for market and this will doubtless be come in the future an important source of meat supply.

The deer family is older than other fami lies of ruminants, dating back to the Lower Miocene Period, when they were very small and without antlers. With a gradual structural change in other directions, such as variations in dentition and increased size, the antlers have been produced and amplified, so that the deer of the present is a far larger and finer-looking animal than his fossil ancestor. In the matter of antlers the young stag typifies the evolution of the race; as a yearling, his antlers are merely one-pronged spikes; but each successive year they become more branched and forked until at maturity they may have seven or more branches. See articles under various English names of deer, as ELK; FALLOW DEER; MOOSE, etc. Con sult Lydeldcer, 'Deer of All Lands' (London 1898) ; Roosevelt (and others), 'The Deer Family' (New York 1902) • Ingersoll, 'Life of (New York 1907).