Reserving judgment is a matter of infinite hope.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
An alleged horse-deer hybrid, illustration from Hollick’s The Origin of Life and Process of Reproduction in Plants and Animals, (1880, p. 474). Artist: George Landseer |
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), known also as an Elk or Wapiti in North America|
|Note: It has been my policy in listing reports of hybrids to include all serious allegations, especially those of scholars, whether or not the hybrid alleged seems possible or likely to me. This policy, I think, helps to eliminate subjective judgment on my part, and therefore should remove at least one source of systematic bias from my work. It also helps to fulfill the ethical obligation of telling not just the truth, but the whole truth.|
Note: Claims that hybrids can be produced from this highly disparate cross require confirmation.
Various mentions of deer-horse hybrids appear in the older literature, all of which apparently refer to crosses involving Cervus elaphus. One, which appeared in Hollick’s The Origin of Life and Process of Reproduction in Plants and Animals, (1880, p. 475), accompanied by the illustration at right, reads as follows:
A few years ago a remarkable hybrid was found in the New Forest, in the South of England, of which we give an illustration. The account given of it states that “this remarkable filly (seven months old) was found a short time since in the New Forest, and is evidently of a mixed breed, between the horse and the deer. Her mother (a pony mare) was observed to associate with some red deer stags in the New Forest for some months, and, at last, this foal was seen by her side. The nose shows a proximity both to the stag and horse; her forhead is round, like that of the deer; legs slender and distinctly double; hoofs pointed, and partly double; color brown, lighter under the belly, and tail like a deer.
“This extraordinary animal is the property of T. G. Attwater, Esq., of Attwater, at the village of Bodenham, three miles from Salisbury. Dr. Fowler, of that city, has inspected the hybrid, and is quite satisfied of the correctness of the preceding statement; and Colonel Buckley (a keeper of the New Forest) has likewise seen the animal, and is of a similar opinion.”
This is one of the most remarkable and best-attested instances of hybridization, between animals very remote from each other, that I have ever met with, and proves that with due care, crosses may be effected to a greater extent than is usually supposed possible.
The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal (1827, p. 390) contains a brief report entitled, “Extract of a Letter to M. de Férussac, dated Berlin, 27th January, 1827.” It reads as follows:
For similar accounts, see also: Ackermann (1898, p. 61); Allgemeine Forst- und Jagd-zeitung (Frankfurt), vol. 3, Sunday, Oct. 18, 1827, p. 500; Anonymous 1827 (cited by Bronn 1847, p. 167). However, all of these trace to the anonymous letter just quoted.
Two other, earlier authors mention such a hybrid. In his Journey through Wales (twelfth century, translated by Sir Richard Colt Hoare), Gerald of Wales says a mare mated with a stag “and produced an animal of wonderful speed, resembling a horse before and a stag behind.” The Swiss surgeon Jakob Ruf (1500-1558) mentions a separate instance of such a hybrid (De Conceptu et Generatione Hominis, Tiguri, 1587, p. 48):
Thus, in all of the older accounts of deer-horse hybrids, it is the anterior portion of the hybrid that is horse-like, while the posterior is deer-like. Also, in all three cases it is stated that a stag crossed with a mare.
An unverified modern account
An anonymous participant in a now defunct page of a hunting and fishing forum posted the picture of an alleged deer-horse hybrid shown at right. When accused of faking the picture, he or she responded as follows:
An alleged deer-horse hybrid (Odocoileus virginianus × Equus caballus) - Enlarge picture|
Lower down on the same page, he or she continued as follows:
Given that the White-tailed Deer is the only cervid native to Georgia, the cross alleged would be Odocoileus virginianus × Equus caballus.
By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).
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