Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out
Get this document free

White Fallow deer


									White Fallow deer
                         written and illustrated by Michael Baxter Brown

                    (This article was first published in Deer, the Journal of the British Deer Society, April 2003)

E   ARLIER this year my wife and I attended a well-support-
    ed open meeting at which one of the speakers referred to
the inhabitants of a local deer park as ‘Chinese’ deer. I
                                                                      and 1974 a decision seems to have been taken to keep the
                                                                      park at its 1949 size and to maintain only a small herd of
                                                                      white Fallow deer; a local archivist notes, in 1974, that “white
pricked up my ears. The only deer now occupying this pri-             pigeons, white poultry and white deer” were kept in its
vately owned park is a herd of white Fallow deer. So where            bounds. It is not a particularly old park; Evelyn Shirley
is the ‘Chinese’ connection? Hingston (1988) provides a clue          (1867) makes no mention of it, and it does not appear as a
in his description of the herd: “the all-white Chinese Fallow         park on the 1874 OS map.
are of an exquisite delicacy”. Modern Fallow deer originated              Although the bucks do not sport much in the way of
from around the Mediterranean and have not been widely                head gear the herd is healthy and well cared for and the
introduced to Asia so the ‘Chinese connection’ could be a             park, on the west slope of a hill, looks to be well managed.
case of mistaken identity or even the product of a lively             Fenced on three side and walled on the fourth, it is divided
imagination. The closest I have been able to get is a                 into two more or less equal sections by fencing, the deer
Japanese link for there was at one time also a herd of                being moved from one section to the other from time to
Japanese Sika in the park.                                            time, thus permitting pasture maintenance to be carried out.
    According to Whitehead (1950) Red deer were intro-
duced into the park about 1875 but were destroyed in 1892             White Fallow deer
for reasons not explained. Perhaps to make way for the Sika?          It is the case that, of all deer species, Fallow show by far the
Sika were first introduced into English deer parks in the last        greatest variation in coat colour. The reasons are genetic.
few decades of the 19th century and so it may have been               Smith (1980) proposed that white is a triple homozygous
that the Red deer were sacrificed to make room for this new           recessive genotype but this is refuted by Bignell (1993) who
species, which at that time would still have had some rarity          believes that white is controlled by a single recessive gene.
value and would thus have evoked curiosity? It is recorded            It follows that white deer can be produced by parents of any
that the last two Sika, both hinds, of a herd which numbered          two of the other colours (black, common or menil) and
80 at its peak, died in 1939 and at that time there were 300          white parents will always produce white fawns. But genetics
Fallow (50 bucks and 250 does) in the park.                           is a complex science well beyond my ken so I shall go no fur-
    By 1949 the herd had been reduced to 22-24 does and               ther than to quote Norma Chapman’s excellent explanation:
two bucks, described as “a mixture of white, black, sandy             “Similar [colour] variations are familiar in many domestic
and dappled” (Whitehead, 1950). The park had by then                  animals from pet mice to cats and cattle; they are associat-
shrunk to about 40 acres, the remainder having been put               ed with domestication and inbreeding, which favour and
under the plough during the War. Some time between 1949               perpetuate mutations.” (Chapman & Chapman, 1975).

                                                                  1                                                   Deer, Vol. 12, No. 7
Fallow deer have indeed a long history of close association            contained within perimeter walls. I have not come across
with man; it has been suggested that the Phoenicians, sea-             any ancient records of the coat colour of the Fallow deer in
faring traders and artisans, who were all powerful in the              these parks; today both herds are of mixed colour, white
eastern Mediterranean prior to the Greeks, may have kept               deer being more numerous in Home Park.
Fallow deer in semi-domestication although the animals                     Early in the 16th century there is record of white deer in
involved need not necessarily have been Dama dama. They                Stirling (royal park) and in 1507 Sir John Wemyss sent to
may also have been responsible for the trade in live Fallow,           James IV “thre quyt deir to put in the park” as well as a roe
a trade possibly continued by the Greeks and Romans.                   buck, one hart and four roe deer. (Cummings, 1988).
Although there could have been earlier imports it is likely            Cummings goes on to comment that “white deer were no
that Fallow deer were introduced -- or perhaps re-intro-               doubt welcome as a decorative feature, perhaps reinforced
duced -- to England by the Normans for stocking their parks            by an awareness of the white hart in literature. The source
and the royal forests.                                                 of Sir John’s deer is not clear but the wording of the phrase
    The attributes of Fallow are many: semi-domesticated               (from the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland)
animals, used to being handled and transported by sea,                 suggests that they may have been Fallow. The parks at
hardy and relatively disease free, requiring little attention in       Stirling were first enclosed in the mid 12th century (old
comparison to most other domesticated stock with a nutri-              park) and the late 13th century (new park) but by the 15th
tious meat and with the added advantage of being suitable              century both had fallen into disrepair; the old park was
for hunting. It is no surprise that with these attributes the          renewed at the beginning of the 16th century and stocked
number of deer parks in England rapidly increased from the             with both Red and Fallow deer, which is interesting because
35 recorded in the Domesday Book to a peak of at least                 it was believed by some in the 16th and 17th centuries that
1,900 in the mid 13th century. Other factors were also at              the two species should not be mixed (Gilbert, 1979).
work. The growth of the medieval deer park coincided with                  James 1 (1603-25) is credited with introducing black
the expansion of the royal forests and the rigorous enforce-           coloured Fallow deer into Scotland from Norway, on the
ment of Forest Law. It was a device whereby the nobility, the          grounds that the strain was hardier than others, but dark
Church and the wealthy landowner could own their own                   coloured deer may already have been present in at least
hunting ground, stocked with deer and thus a source of                 one English park (Windsor) as early as 1465. The same
venison, without circumventing Forest Law.                             monarch reputedly sent ‘pied’ or spotted deer, presumably
    The impression is often given that the royal forests and           menil Fallow, to the king of France in 1608 by which time it
parks of medieval England were maintained as hunting                   is evident that colour variation was a factor.
reserves for royalty, the aristocracy, the Church and the                  White Fallow deer do not figure prominently in early
wealthy, an impression stoked by folklore and legend. But              park records and Shirley mentions them only in passing.
this is only part of the story -- they were also utilitarian, a        Whitehead (1950) suggests that some owners of park herds
source of timber and wood, of venison, of grazing domestic             indulged in cross-breeding of various colours in order to try
stock and even as tax raising devices. There are many                  and create a new colour. Winnans (1913) hints that all-spot-
records of large numbers of deer, mainly Fallow, being killed          ted herds were favoured by some by advising owners to
in forest and park for the provision of venison. Whether or            shoot out any black deer in their herds to encourage the
not the colour of the Fallow deer so utilised was of any con-          ascendancy of the all-spotted (menil) variety and believed
sequence is not clear.                                                 that the introduction of a white buck into a herd promoted
    The Black Death (1348) marked the slow decline of the              lightness of coat and spotting. Whatever was the case it
medieval deer park and by the late Middle Ages a new con-              seems that there was never more than a handful of all-white
cept in parks was emerging, although hunting and what was              herds and today there are only three or four in the UK; in
basically deer farming did not end with their demise. This             the wild Fallow are mainly of mixed colour, although the
new generation of parkland was often directly associated               herd adjacent to Dunkeld in Perthshire is predominantly
with a major residence, amenity parkland of more formal                black.
design featuring tree-lined avenues, artificial mounds and                 Poachers consider that wild white Fallow are manna
so on. A prime example is Henry V111’s Hampton Court                   from heaven, referring to them as Judas deer because
Palace where the palace, the gardens and the two deer                  they stand out so well thus giving way the position of the
parks (Home and Bushy) were conceived as a whole, all                  herd.

                                                                               A mixed colour herd of Fallow - mainly does
                                                                               and fawns, in Richmond Park, Surrey
                                                                               November 2002

                                                                   2                                                Deer, Vol. 12, No. 7
Note the off-white colour
of the bucks on the right
February 2003

All-white herds -- where are they?                                   Legend
The largest herd of all-white Fallow deer in the UK is at            legend has it that a Buddhist monk or Shinto prophet rode
Houghton Hall, Kings Lynn, Norfolk. The establishment of             into the city of Nara, Japan, in 768AD on a white stag. As a
an all-white herd here is, however, a comparatively recent           result the Honda Sika still enjoy the freedom of the city,
development and Whitehead (1950) describes the herd as               although you may have difficulty in locating a white animal
being “of the normal spotted type with a few white deer”.            amongst them. Light coloured and white animals have, how-
    Another park with an all-white Fallow herd is Bramshill          ever, been recorded from time to time. (Banwell, 1996). In
in north Hampshire. An ancient park, it was without deer             western mythology white stags feature in the anecdotes of
from around the 17th century until it was restocked with             Pling, Aristotle and Pausarius as well as in English, Scottish
Red deer stags from Windsor Great Park and hinds from                and Irish mythology and folklore. White hinds also come into
Savernake in 1938. There was also an import of a white               the story, notably in Celtic folklore. The references to ‘stags’
Red stag and six white hinds from the white Red deer herd            and ‘hinds’ suggest a link with the genus Cervus but other
at Langley Park, Buckinghamshire and a white Fallow buck             species are also represented -- the Roman statesman and mil-
from Wonersh Park, Surrey, the other Fallow coming from              itary commander Quinton Sertorius was reputedly accom-
Savernake Forest. A suggestion here that the then owner              panied everywhere by a white ‘fawn’.
may have been intent upon breeding all-white Red and                     In native American mythology white animals e.g. white
Fallow deer -- the Red deer have now gone but a small                deer and buffalo were considered sacred and the Reindeer is
herd of all-white Fallow remain. Hingston (1988) tells us            another animal around which has grown much legend.
that there is an all-white Fallow herd -- “one only two all-         Interestingly Whitehead (1993) tells us that the colour of the
white herds in England” -- at Aqualate Park, Staffordshire           European Reindeer “varies considerably among the cows
but he does not include Bramshill in his survey. Mallow              and those animals with a tame admixture” and that their
Castle Park in Co. Cork, Ireland which reputedly dates               colour ranges from a dark grey/brown to a completely white
from the reign of Elizabeth 1, carries a small herd of Fallow        animal.
and Whitehead (1950) reports that around half of the herd                Finally in China the white stag represents Shou-hsien, god
were then white. The all-white Fallow herd at Parkanaur              of immortality. Allowing for ‘artistic licence’ (Dama for
Forest Park in Co Tyrone is directly descended from the              Cervus) isn’t this where we came in?
Mallow Castle herd.
    In Illinous, USA, on a 3,700 acre site around Argonne            Acknowledgement
National Laboratory estate White-tail deer live alongside a          I wish to thank Norma Chapman for kindly agreed to read
herd of wild white Fallow deer. In northern California at            draft of this article. She made a number of useful suggestions,
the Ridgewood Ranch in Mendocino County another herd                 most of which have been incorporated into the final version.
of all-white Fallow deer, first introduced in 1949, survives
although the size of this population has fluctuated from             References
time to time (Connolly, 1981). On the other side of conti-           BANWELL, D. BRUCE. 1996. The Sikas of Japan. Deer 10, 38
nent, in Georgia, is Rock City Garden, a theme park based            CONNOLLY, GUY E. 1981. Fallow Deer in Mendocino County,
on the massive rock formations of Lookout Mountain,                  California. Deer 5, 175
fairy tales and the like. Among the attractions is a deer            CHAPMAN & CHAPMAN. 1975. Fallow Deer. Terence Dalton Ltd.
park, home to a herd of all-white Fallow, said to be                 CUMMINGS, J. 1988. The Hound and the Hawk. Weidenfeld and
descendants of animals introduced from Europe in the                 Nicolson.
1930s.                                                               GILBERT, M. J. 1979. Hunting and Hunting Reserves in Medieval
    At the Hopland Field Station, University of California, a        Scotland. John Donald Publishers Ltd
small herd of Fallow was established from a white Fallow             HINGSTON, F. 1988. Deer Parks & Deer of Great Britain. Sporting &
doe and a black buck in the mid 1960s. Although the herd             Leisure Press
is no more, the University having terminated many of its             WHITEHEAD, KENNETH G 1950. Deer and Their Management.
wildlife research activities in 1975, of the 20 births record-       Country Life Ltd
ed in the herd between 1965-75, 12 fawns were black and              WHITEHEAD, KENNETH G.1993. The Whitehead Encyclopedia of
eight were white, most females being black and males                 Deer. Swan Hill Press
white. In 1968 a set of twins was produced, both male, one           SHIRLEY, E. P. 1867. Some Account of English Deer Parks. John
was black and the other white. At three years old the                Murray.
white buck was reported to be dominant over his black                SMITH, R. H. 1980. The genetics of Fallow Deer and Their
sibling (Connolly, 1981).                                            Implications for Management. Deer 5, 79-83

Deer, Vol. 12, No. 7                                             3

To top