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CHAPTER V.

THE DEER AND ANTELOPE TRIBES.

Having considered the Bovines and their economic uses, we are next led

to investigate another class of Ruminantsthe Deer tribe, and to consider what products they furnish for the use of man. Although not very common in civilised Europe, in many regions they are of essential importance, both for food and other purposes. The horns of these animals are first alluded to, their specialities and trade uses; then the commerce and applications of deer skins receive notice; after that the various species of deer of any importance in an economic point of view are described, including the reindeer, musk-deer and its product; we then pass on to the Antelope tribe, those of any special economic interest, as the eland, the spring-bok, and the gnu being noticed. THE DEER TRIBE.—Besides their flesh, which is eaten as food when obtainable, the products which the deer tribe supply to commerce are chiefly antlers or horns, and skins. We shall speak first of the horns. There are several species of deer. For our purpose these

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be divided into two groups, of which one includes those with antlers more or less flattened, the other those with rounded antlers.

The elk (Alces) is the most characteristic species of the first group.

The reindeer differs from the rest of the genus in the presence of antlers in both sexes, and in the great development of the brow antlers. The English park or fallow deer (Cervus dama, Dama platyceros) is referable to the flat horned group.

The number of stags and hinds in Scotland is rather more than 10,000.*

* In the Bethnal Green Collection there are mounted heads of the fallow deer, male and female, of the roe, male and female, the red deer, male and emale, a fine head and antlers of the wapiti (Cervus canadensis), of the roebuck,

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178

COMPOSITION OF DEER-HORN.

Deer-horn produces a great quantity of gelatine by decoction, and the raspings of deer's horn are occasionally employed in domestic economy to furnish what is supposed to be a nourishing jelly. The waste pieces are sometimes boiled down for size in the cloth-making districts. Submitted to the action of heat the product is the same as that of most animal substances. It used to be largely employed for the produce of ammonia.

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The first year the stag has properly no horns, but only a kind of corneous excrescence, short, rough, and covered, with a thin, hairy

an unusually fine head and antlers of the Cervus axis, two heads with antlers of the reindeer, and varieties of deer horns from India, Siam, &c. ; also feet of the elk or moose formed into paper racks or pockets in Case 96; a stuffed head of the eland, and horns of the waterbok and various other antelopes.

GROWTH OF STAG-HORN.

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skin; the second year the horns are single and straight; the third year they have two antlers ; the fourth, three; the fifth, four; and the sixth, five. When arrived at the sixth year the antlers do not always increase, and though the number may amount to six or seven on each side, the stag's age is then estimated rather by the size and thickness of the branch that sustains them than from their number. The proportional length, direction, and curvature of the antlers vary, and it oftens happens that there is one more or less on the one side, than on the other; the horns also become larger, the superficial furrows more marked, and the burr is more projecting. Nothwithstanding their magnitude, those horns are annually shed in the spring of the year, and succeeded

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by new ones. A full grown stag's horn frequently weighs 24 lbs., and the whole of this immense mass of true bone is produced in about ten weeks.

The form of the horns differs at different ages; but it is not so easy to tell the age of a stag by its horns.

A correspondent in Land and Water thus describes the stages of growth. Eight or nine months after birth the horns appear as nearly straight branches, growing to the length of from six to

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ANTLERS OF THE DEER.

twelve inches. This single horn being cast, the two-year-old stag sets up his second pair, on which one side prong appears a few inches above the point of junction with the head. In the third year each horn acquires two ends. The lower prong increases in length, and is developed somewhat lower down on the horn. The upper prong is somewhat smaller than this. The third end preserves the character of the original single horn. In the next year the stag sets up four points on each horn, the lower prong drawing still nearer to the base, and the original horn breaking out into two points. The next stage is the development of points between the eye-end and the middle-end, which are materially smaller. In the next stage the two upper points form

a crown.

The stag is then called a stag of twelve points, or crown stag, or, as we say in Scotland, a Royal Stag. The cut on p. 179 shows the progressive development up to twelve points, as given in Winckell's “Manual for Sportsmen," and Altum's "Forest Zoology."

Up to the eighth or ninth year the density of the horns increases, and from that to the twelfth year the horns are in greatest perfection. The number of tiers or branches of the horn varies according to the age of the animal. At the present day the oldest stags in Scotland seldom present more than ten or twelve “points.” There is a head still preserved at Mauritzberg which presents the enormous number of sixty-six points. It was killed by the first king of Prussia, and presented by that monarch to Augustus, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. In the Collection at the Chateau of Wohrad, the hunting residence of the Lordship of Fauenberg, there are one hundred and nine stags' heads, of which only seventeen are under fourteen points.

There are occasionally curious contortions in the horns. Mr. A. Murray, in the “Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal,” describes those of an old reindeer, but small in size and with small

USES OF BUCK-HORN.

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horns. The horns have met with a distortion, by which they have a curious bend in the middle, as shown in this figure. The cause, whatever it may have been, has affected them both equally, which is not usually the case where horns are distorted. It may be that the poor animal, when its horns were still soft and young,

got entangled among brushwood; and that here is the silent evidence of long struggles on the part of the animal, and of perhaps days of famine before it succeeded in freeing itself from the bonds which held it. Or it may be merely a distortion consequent upon the old age of the animal, for we often find the horns in old deer stunted and distorted, although it is not usual to find them so symmetrically disfigured.

The horns of the deer, more properly called "antlers," are solid processes from the frontal bone, and possess the chemical and physical properties of true bone. After being sawn and filed to the required shape, the exterior is left in 'its rough and natural state, which, besides being ornamental, is well adapted for the handles of knives and instruments requiring a firm grasp. In the German States, very pretty and delicate objects are carved from this material.

Buck-horn is principally used now for handles of carving-forks

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