Deer

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A deer is a wild mammal used throughout history as a source of meat and leather (generally without informed consent on the part of the deer).

Deer were widely distributed across the period world and were the subject of hunting since pre-history. Their meat (known as venison was eaten, and their hides used for clothing, as leather for boots, and for the covering of tent-type dwellings. Within period they were often treated as the preserve of the nobility, and laws were enacted making it illegal for commoners to hunt or to harass deer. In England entire Royal forests were set aside for the cultivation and hunting of the King's deer, and savage Forest Laws enacted to protect these areas.

Deer are herbivorous ruminants, generally living in, or on the fringes of, wooded or forested areas. The deer of the Old and New Worlds are treated by naturalists as separate groups, having, it is thought, evolved from separate origins in Siberia/America and in Asia. However, there are several different genera which are found in the Old World, some of which are also found in the New World, and the American elk or wapiti was once thought to be in the same species as the European red deer. The moose is still considered to be in the same species as the European elk.

Some deer have antlers -- bony growths on the head -- rather than the horns borne by other ruminants.

Vocabulary

  • Stag -- a male deer
  • Buck -- a young stag
  • Hart -- a stag beyond its fifth year
  • Hind -- a female deer
  • Fawn -- a young (immature) deer
  • Roe deer -- a species of deer, Capreolus capreolus
  • Fallow deer -- a species of deer, Dama dama
  • Red deer -- a species of deer, Cervus elaphus
  • American elk or wapiti -- a species of deer, Cervus canadensis, until recently held to be the same species as red deer.

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