Pere David’s Deer (Elaphurus davidianus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family:    Cervidae
Size:    Height: 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.2 meters)
Weight: 297 to 440 pounds (135 to 200 kg)
Diet: Grass, water plants 
Distribution: China
Young:  1 to 2 fawns 
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Terms: Young: Fawn   Male: Stag   Female: Doe
Lifespan: Up to 23 years



·       Unlike many other species of deer, Père David’s deer like water and swim well.

·       All Père David’s deer alive today are related to a herd of 18 deer collected by the 11th Duke of Bedford.

·       Their hooves make a cracking sound when they are walking.



One of the largest species of deer, Père David’s have broad hooves, which indicates they were used to living in marshy areas. The males have antlers that are shed twice a year. They have a large summer set that is shed in autumn after mating season, when a smaller set grows in. The newer set is shed in January. The Chinese name for this deer is Ssu-pu-hsiang, which means “the four unlike” because they thought it combined the attributes of four different animals—the antlers of a stag, a camel’s neck, cow’s hooves, and a donkey’s tail—but was unlike any of these animals in other ways.



These deer once lived in the swampy plains of eastern China.


Feeding Habits

Père David’s deer eat grass and water plants.



Mature females give birth to one or two spotted fawns after a nine to 10-month pregnancy. Fawns can stand soon after birth and are nursed for six to seven weeks, but remain with their mother for up to two years.



Père David’s deer live in herds of females and juveniles, with males joining the group and assuming the leadership position during mating season. While with a female herd, the leading male has to fight off other males. Leadership of the herd changes several times within the season. Père David’s deer love water and swim frequently. 



This deer exists largely due to the efforts of a French missionary and naturalist, Père Armand David, for whom this animal is named. In 1865 he observed a herd kept in a game park near Peking (now known as Beijing). Due to his discovery, a demand for these animals was created in Europe, resulting in several being sent there. That action saved the deer from extinction, as most of the Chinese herd died in a flood in 1895, and the rest were killed by hunters in a famine and during the Boxer rebellion of 1900. The Duke of Bedford in England set up a breeding herd, and the deer flourished to the point that there are now over 1400 individuals existing in parks and zoos around the world. Père David’s deer are believed to have originated in China, where they are thought to have become extinct during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In 1956 two pairs from the United Kingdom were sent to the Beijing Zoo. The first calf was born in 1957, and in the mid-1980s a herd was reintroduced to the wild in the Dafeng reserve, near Beijing. There are now approximately 800 living in China.



Père David’s Deer Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US