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Pere David's Deer

Pere David's Deer

Scientific classification
Binomial name
Elaphurus davidianus

Pere David's Deer (Elaphurus davidianus) is a species of deer known only in captivity. It prefers marshland, and is believed to be native to the subtropics. It grazes on a mixture of grass and water plants.

Adults weigh 150-200 kg (330-440 pounds). They have a nine-month gestation period, and one or two fawns are born at a time. They reach maturity at about 14 months, and have been known to reach the age of 23 years.

Pere David's Deer has a long tail, wide hooves, and branched antlers. The Chinese name for it translates as "four unlikes," because the animals were seen as having the horns of a stag, the neck of a camel, the foot of a cow, and the tail of an ass. Adults have summer coats that are bright red with a dark dorsal stripe, and dark gray winter coats. The fawns are spotted.

These animals were first made known to Western science in the 19th century, by Father Armand David, a French missionary working in China. At the time, the only surviving herd was in a preserve belonging to the Chinese emperor.

After Father David publicized their existence, a few animals were taken to England, and bred there. The entire current population of this species is descended from the English herd; the remaining population in China died out early in the 20th century, because of unrest after the 1911 revolution.

These deer are now found in zoos around the world, and a herd of Pere David's Deer was reintroduced to Dafeng Reserve, China in the late 1980s. They are classified as "critically endangered" in the wild, but do not appear to have suffered from a genetic bottleneck because of small population size.