Pere David Deer

The deer is named after the French missionary Pere David, who was permitted a glimpse of the herd kept by the Chinese emperor in 1865.

Persecution in their native habit finally resulted in Pere David’s deer becoming extinct in the wild in 1939. Fortunately, a number of pairs had been sent to Europe before the Chinese emperor’s own herd had been wiped out completely by flood and revolution. The surviving individuals in Europe then passed into the Duke of Bedford’s care, and all today’s examples of the species are descended from a single stag and five hinds that were bred at Woburn Park. Populations of Pere David's deer can now be found in zoos and parks around the world and they have been reintroduced in China.

Pere David's deer has a mane of thick hair around its neck and throat and a longer tail than most deer. One tine of each antler usually points backward, while the other points upward and forks. Although they feed mainly on grass, the deer supplement their diet with water plants. For most of the year they live in herds led by a dominant male, but the male lives alone for 2 months before and 2 months after the rutting season.

The males fight to gain dominance over a harem. Females give birth to 1 or 2 young after a gestation of about 288 days.

VITAL STATISTICS

Distribution: Now extinct in the wild, its exact distribution was not recorded. It is believed to have occurred on the swampy plains of northeastern China.

Habitat: Wildlife parks.

Weight: Around 130 kg (290 lb).

Length: 230 - 240 cm (91 - 95 in), including tail, which can measure 52 cm (21 in); up to 120 cm (48 in) tall.

Maturity: 14 months.

Gestation Period: About 260 - 310 days; weaning occurs 10 - 11 months later.

Number of Offspring: 1, rarely 2.

Diet: Herbivorous, grazing largely on grass, but will also feed on various aquatic plants.

Lifespan: Up to 18 years in captivity.

Antlers

Uniquely amongst deer, this species has a main anterior branch on its antlers. Two sets may also be grown annually.

Facial features

These deer have a narrow, pointed face with short, slim ears and large eyes. The gland ducts are evident beneath the eyes.

Tail

The tail is long, ending in a black tuft, and resembling that of a donkey.

Hooves

The hooves are long and slender, making it easier to walk over marshy ground.

AN AQUATIC LIFESTYLE

Pere Davids deer will spend long periods wading, feeding and even playing in water. They are also able to swim well.

Gallery of Pere David Deer