Facts About Deer

Interesting Facts about Deer

They are found in just about every corner of the world; this and many other facts about deer can be interesting and educational to any person who admires this beautiful animal. 

Deer are mammals, and belong to a family of animals called Cervidae.  This family includes such animals as the moose, elk and reindeer among others.  This diverse group of animals inhabits equally diverse biomes, with habitats ranging from rainforests to tundras.  It is estimated that deer entered earth’s history around 35 million years ago, based on evidence found of a prehistoric deer called Megoloceros.  Deer also greatly vary in size; the Pudu is the smallest variety at around 30 inches in length, while the moose looms large at between 6 and 10 feet tall. 

An herbivorous animal, all species of deer eat a variety of plants including tender tree leaves, plant shoots and even twigs from trees.  There are certain varieties of deer that get their nutrition solely from grazing the grasses of their environment.  Like cows, deer are cud chewing animals.  This means that when they take in food, it is partially chewed and then stored in the first of four chambers of the stomach in the deer’s body.  Due to the fibrous nature of the ingested food, acids contained in the first stomach are necessary to break the plant matter into more digestible particles.  It is regurgitated then chewed again before it is swallowed and passed into the second chamber of the stomach.  It continues to the third and fourth chambers, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces before going on to the intestines. 

Deer have long been considered a source of food by humans and other animals alike.  Early Native Americans used the animal for food as well as for other uses; the hides provided clothing and material for their teepees, and the sinews were used for bow strings and medical purposes.  While venison, or deer meat, is no longer a necessary menu item in the American diet, many people still enjoy the flavor that it provides.  Hunting continues to be a popular sport, as deer are hunted for meat as well as for trophies.  The hunting may seem cruel and needless to some animal activists, however, the facts about deer hunting are that it is necessary to control the population of the animal.  Since two mated deer can easily increase their herd size to 35 in just 7 short years, it can easily be seen how rapidly the population can grow when considering there are fewer natural predators.  Animals that normally prey upon deer are grizzly bears, mountain lions and coyotes.  With an expanding human population that occupies the territories of these animals, however, these natural predators of deer have decreased; causing an increase in the number of deer.  

Other interesting facts about deer involve their antlers.  All but one species of male deer grow antlers; the Chinese water deer is the one exception.  Defined as growths of dead bone, antlers begin to emerge on the young buck that is around 10 months old.  Antlers grow rapidly, around ½ inch per day, and then fall off each year; regenerating the following season.  Their purpose is for self-defense when battling other males for dominance.  Females typically do not grow antlers; however, a hormone imbalance has been the cause for one in several thousand does to develop them.  A little known fact is that antlers are not horns.

Deer are fascinating and beautiful creatures that have proven to be invaluable in American history.  Hunters thrill in the challenge of the sport as well as the enjoyment of the food that they provide.  Many others around the world simply admire the gentle beauty of this creature.

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