David deer

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David deer
David deer

David deer

without rank: Forehead weapon bearer (Pecora)
Family : Deer (Cervidae)
Subfamily : Cervinae
Tribe : Real deer (Cervini)
Genre : Elaphurus
Type : David deer
Scientific name of the  genus
Milne-Edwards , 1866
Scientific name of the  species
Elaphurus davidianus
Milne Edwards , 1866

The David deer or Milu ( Elaphurus davidianus ) is a species of mammal from the deer family (Cervidae). Originally native to eastern Asia , it has been extinct in the wild for several hundred years and was only able to survive by keeping it in an imperial park in Beijing and later in European game reserves.


The head-trunk length is 183 to 216 centimeters. David deer have the longest tail of all deer, measuring between 22 and 35 centimeters. The long, donkey-like tail ends in a black tassel. The shoulder height is 122 to 137 centimeters and the average weight is 214 kilograms for males and 159 kilograms for females. This makes the David deer a comparatively large deer and only slightly smaller than the red deer .

The fur is strong reddish brown in summer and pale light brown in winter. The hair change to winter coat begins in August, unlike most other deer they have no mirror , that is, the back of the thighs do not have any color deviating from the other fur. The pre-eye glands are very well developed in David deer, and since the skin around these pre-eye glands is not hairy, they appear even larger. With its long, slender legs, the shape of the David deer is somewhat reminiscent of a reindeer . The hooves are very large and the dewclaws are long enough to touch the ground. The shape of the hoof is reminiscent of that of reindeer and caribou, where the shells can spread widely to prevent sinking into the snow. In the case of the David deer originally found in wet areas, this hoof shape prevents sinking into the moist soil.

The most striking feature of the David deer, however, is the antlers , which have branches pointing backwards, the first being almost as large as the main pole. As a result, the antlers seem to have grown in the "wrong" direction to the viewer. The antlers reach a length of 72 to 84 centimeters. The antlers grow during the winter months and therefore within an unusual time for deer. Only the European and Siberian deer share this characteristic.

David deer are good swimmers. Their gait, on the other hand, seems stiff-legged and the maximum speed they can reach is 30 km / h.

distribution and habitat

The original distribution of the David deer was unknown for a long time. More recent fossil finds show that it was found in almost all of China , as well as in Korea and Japan, in the Pleistocene . The supposed date of extinction of the David deer in the wild is always found in the year 200 AD. However the tradition of this date came about, today it is certain that David deer survived much longer. According to the Chinese researcher Xia Jingshi, the last herds probably lived during the Ming Dynasty , and the remaining solitary deer were killed in the 17th or perhaps 18th century. Unconfirmed reports suggest that two pelts were found on Hainan Island as early as the 19th century .

After extinction in the wild, the species survived because a herd of 120 animals was kept in the Imperial Gardens of Beijing for centuries. However, today's populations (see threats and protection ) all descend from European zoo deer.

The former habitat of the David deer were swamps . Its greatly enlarged, spreadable claws are an adaptation to the environment and saved it from sinking in.

Lifestyle and diet

David deer

The Chinese zoologist Xia Jingshi wrote, referring to old source texts, that at the time of the establishment of the Chinese Empire (around 200 BC) thousands of wild David deer roamed in large herds. In today's much smaller herds, one can see that the male deer fight fierce battles during the heat to establish a harem. Not only do they fight with their antlers, but they also stand on their back legs to kick their opponents with their front hooves.

The diet of the David deer mainly includes grasses, supplemented by aquatic plants and leaves.


The rutting season begins at the end of June when the herds of females gather in the traditional rutting places. A dominant male joins this pack and tries to keep other males away from the pack. Frontal push fights between the males can occasionally be observed. The males occasionally fight with blows with their forelegs, while they stand up on the hind legs.

During the rutting season, the deer make a deep, choppy roar. Among other things, the males dig rutting pits, in which they urinate and in which they then wallow extensively. Rough deer also wet their chests, legs and hair on the back of their necks extensively with urine by swinging their penis horizontally to and fro while urinating. This behavior is also unusual in deer. They also rub their pre-eye glands and the hair on their necks on trees and bushes in their territory. They also forge the ground with their antlers, tearing up tufts of grass that get caught in their antlers. This behavior, which can also be observed in other deer species, probably serves to make the antlers appear larger and more imposing.

The gestation period is around nine months, making it one of the longest among deer - assumptions about possible dormancy, as in the case of deer, have not been confirmed. Usually one or two young are born who weigh around 11 kilograms at birth and, like many young deer, initially have a spotted coat. Sexual maturity occurs at two years of age, the maximum age of an animal was 23 years.

Threat and protection

David deer were bred on the grounds of Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire in the first half of the 20th century

As mentioned above, by the 19th century at the latest, the stocks were limited to one herd in the imperial Nan Hai Tsu Park near Beijing. The French Father Armand David (after whom the species is also named) was probably the first European to see these deer in 1865, when he climbed the wall despite the prohibition. Due to its morphological characteristics, he initially thought it was a species of reindeer . By bribing the guards, David later got two skins, which he sent to Europe, where the zoologist Henri Milne Edwards first described the species on the basis of these.

Later French, British and German diplomats were given live David deer as gifts. These were shipped to Europe and housed in the local zoos. Some also found accommodation in the Berlin zoo ; however, they were crossed with red deer, so that the stock was soon no longer pure-blooded.

In China itself, the end of the herd came at the turn of the 20th century. A flood disaster in 1895 badly affected the park, several animals drowned, others escaped through the destroyed wall and were soon killed and eaten by starving people. Only around 20 to 30 animals initially survived, but they were also killed and eaten five years later during the turmoil of the Boxer Rebellion . A last David deer survived in the Beijing Zoo until 1922 before it died there.

After the extinction became known in China, all zoos that kept David deer decided to put their animals in the care of the Duke of Bedford ( England ), who kept and successfully bred a wide variety of exotic deer species in his gardens at Woburn Abbey north of London . 18 specimens represented the worldwide remainder. Of these, one deer and five hinds were still reproductive. The small herd for which an International Studbook was established was extremely fertile. In 1914 it already comprised ninety animals and in 1946 had grown to three hundred deer. Small breeding groups were distributed to various zoos and breeding successfully everywhere.

In 1956, the Beijing Zoo received five David deer. It was not until 1985 that 39 David deer were released into the wild in their original home in the Dafeng Milu Nature Reserve in Jiangsu Province . Today there are also released David deer in Beijing Milu Park near Beijing . In 2005 the world herd consisted of 1,300 specimens, of which around 1,000 live in China. Then the stud book was discontinued. The IUCN lists the David deer as extinct in the wild .


  • Ronald M. Nowak: Walker's Mammals of the World. 2 volumes. 6th edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore MD et al. 1999, ISBN 0-8018-5789-9 .
  • Leonard Lee Rue III: The Encyclopedia of Deer . Voyageur Press, Stillwater 2003, ISBN 0-89658-590-5

Web links

Commons : Davidshirsch  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Davidshirsch  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Single receipts

  1. ^ A b Leonard Lee Rue III: The Encyclopedia of Deer . Voyageur Press, Stillwater 2003, ISBN 0-89658-590-5 , p. 82
  2. ^ Leonard Lee Rue III: The Encyclopedia of Deer . Voyageur Press, Stillwater 2003, ISBN 0-89658-590-5 , pp. 82 f.
  3. ^ A b c d e Leonard Lee Rue III: The Encyclopedia of Deer . Voyageur Press, Stillwater 2003, ISBN 0-89658-590-5 , p. 83
  4. Bo Beolens, Michael Grayson, Michael Watkins: The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009; Pp. 315-316; ISBN 978-0-8018-9304-9 .