National Geographic : 1939 Oct
ANTLERED MAJESTIES OF MANY LANDS and often dig up fungi in the fall as a special treat. When startled, they bleat harshly. With heads carried high, the animals dash off in a series of long, bounding leaps which generally subside to a trot. They make up for lack of speed by being adept at crossing and con fusing the trail. They take readily to water, presenting a difficult problem for pursuing dogs. This species has always been a favorite object of the chase and is considered better venison than the red deer. Quite unlike the sociable fallow deer, the roes do not congregate in herds. Generally only pairs or family groups are found together, haunting the dense undergrowth of broken high country forest, never thick forest or open plains. Roe deer of several recognized varieties are found from England and Scotland, east across Europe and Asia (north of the Himalayas) to the Pacific. The best-known variety is seen in Britain, southern Sweden, Spain, and east to Asia Minor and northern Palestine. Japanese Sika Deer Cervus sika Divided by zoologists into five races, the sika deer inhabit far-eastern Asia: Japan, northern China, Manchuria, and Formosa (Plate XII). With the exception of the large mandarin sika of China and Manchuria, which stands an impressive 48 inches at the shoul der, the sikas are not large. The Japanese form is 32 to 34 inches high and weighs 170 to 180 pounds, corresponding to a small white tail of the United States. The sika of Japan is a plain smoky brown in winter, changing with spring to a beautiful chestnut red spotted with white. The hairs of his white rump, edged with black, erect at the first sign of danger, warning his com panions and subsiding only when his mind is at rest again. Although Japanese scientists have studied this deer in his native home, their work has not been translated into European languages. We know little about the animal's natural way of life, except that he inhabits the forests, preferably in hilly country. In captivity this dainty, appealing very popular with the Japanese. groups, when going to the country on frequently take along little rice cakes the park deer, just as Americans bring to the zoos to feed the bears. darkest deer is Family outings, to feed peanuts The Japanese sika have been imported to Europe and New Zealand, where they have also been semidomesticated. In England they find conditions suitable and breed well. Re sembling the red deer in habits, they- have. mated with this larger relative in zoos. Dur ing the rutting season the bucks give vent to their emotions by whistling, the sound some- times passing into a scream. The doe pro duces only one fawn at a birth. Axis Deer, or Chital Cervus axis The jungles of the alluvial plains and hills of India and Ceylon have produced one of the most beautiful of all deer, the axis deer, or chital (Plate XII). The native name chital (spotted) refers to his most noticeable char acteristic, the decorative white spots which he wears throughout the year. These are so numerous on the bright reddish-fawn back ground that they sometimes form lines on the lower flanks. A further mark of distinction is the hand some dark stripe which runs from the back of the head to the end of the tail. About the size of an average whitetail of our own coun try, the chital weighs from 150 to 180 pounds and stands approximately 36 inches at the shoulders. The outside curve of his imposing antlers measures about 39 inches. The axis deer enjoy companionship of their own kind and congregate in herds sometimes numbering hundreds. Their friendliness even extends to other forest animals, particularly to monkeys, with whom they are often found. Water is an essential to these deer, for they must drink regularly. By the Indian sports man they are always associated with grass covered forest glades and heavily shaded streams. If good cover is available, hills or plains are all the same to them, and even hu man activities and dwellings are disregarded. Perhaps some of their self-confidence arises from knowledge that, in sun-flecked jungle, they are almost invisible, the spotted coats achieving this magic result. After lying concealed during the day, the axis deer come out at evening to feed on tree shoots and grass. An alarm is given by a loud scream and immediately the whole herd dis perses with long flying leaps. They swim easily and often take to water for ordinary travel as well as to escape enemies. The mother axis deer has only one fawn at a birth, which may occur at any time of the year but more usually during the cold season. Such graceful, beautifully colored and marked deer as these are sure to be conspicuous and sought after. The Romans prized them for parks and exhibitions, and numbers have been imported to England in the last two cen turies for liberation on estates. They have thrived wherever the climate is not too cold. Sometimes, as in New Zealand, they have in creased to such numbers as to become a serious menace to crops and forests. For years the na tional park authorities of that country have hired a "deer exterminator" whose unpleasant duty it is to kill all the animals possible. Other wise, the parks would be denuded by the rap idly multiplying and hungry deer.