The New Student's Reference Work/Deer

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Deer, a general name for a considerable variety of cud-chewing and hoofed animals, including the stag, elk, Virginia deer, wapiti and reindeer. Members of the group are found in all countries except Australia, Madagascar and South Africa. The deer have solid horns which serve to distinguish them from the hollow-horned oxen and antelopes. As a usual thing the antlers are carried only by the males, and they are shed and renewed annually. The female reindeer has antlers as well as the male, and, occasionally, in other forms antlers appear as rudiments in some individual females. When the antlers are renewed, they start as outgrowths from the frontal bone and are covered with soft hairy skin and richly provided with blood-vessels. The skin covers them till they attain their full size, and while it is present they are said to be “in the velvet.” They grow with great rapidity, the large antlers of a stag being completely produced in ten weeks. As soon as they are full-grown, a ring, is formed at the base which pinches off the blood-vessels, and the outer covering skin begins to shrivel and come off in strips, and it is still further worn off by rubbing the antlers against trees. The red deer of Europe, commonly called the stag after it has reached an age of five years, is the most abundant form. As its name implies, its coat is of a reddish, hue, becoming more grayish in the winter. The young are spotted. This animal is about four feet high at the shoulders and seven feet long. In the buck the antlers project upward and outward, and a full-grown buck presents a fine appearance. Their senses of sight, smell and hearing are very acute, and they are timid and very fleet. In America the so-called Virginia deer and the wapiti are the most representative. The Virginia deer is chestnut-red above and white underneath. It is lighter colored in winter. Deer attain a weight of 250 pounds. In autumn and winter they feed on buds, ferns, shoots and bark; in summer, on general herbage and pond-lilies. They come to drink about sunset. The Virginia deer is abundant in various wooded parts of the United States and Canada. It is most abundant in Maine, Vermont, northern Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. It is called, also, white-tailed deer, from the snow-white of the under part of its long, bushy tail, which is held stiffly aloft, when the animal is frightened and running away, and is conspicuous for a long distance. Hunters sometimes call it the flag-tailed deer. The wapiti is often called the American elk, but the name elk belongs, properly, only to the moose. It is larger than the stag of Europe, being, when full-grown, eight feet long and about five feet high at the shoulders. At one time the wapiti was to be found everywhere in the United States, but is now uncommon except about the western tributaries of the Mississippi and in California and Oregon. In the latter places it is abundant. The antlers of the full-grown wapiti are four or five feet long, and three or four feet apart at the points. The moose or elk is the largest of the deer family, with broad muzzle, large nostrils, very long legs and broad flat antlers. The moose are wary and clever and among the most difficult game to approach. They are found from northern Maine to the Arctic regions and both in Europe and America. The extinct Irish elk was an allied species. Remains of the same are now found in peat-bogs of Ireland. When living, this great elk reared its antlers ten feet high, and they sometimes measured twelve feet from tip to tip. The reindeer is at home in Lapland, Finland, eastern Greenland and other northern countries. In Kamchatka reindeer are used as saddle-animals as well as for drawing sledges. The North American variety is commonly called the caribou. The caribou exists in large numbers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Labrador, as far north as Hudson Bay. The United States government is now trying to preserve the reindeer of Alaska, and has so far met with great success. Among other forms in the United States is the long-eared mule-deer, with antlers branching in twos and ears eight inches long. They live on elevated plateaus in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. See Caton: The Antelope and Deer of America (2d ed. 1881) and Hornaday: American Natural History. See, also, Elk, Reindeer and Stag.