The Pere David’s Deer (Elaphurus davidianus) is a rare, semiaquatic species of deer that is currently extinct in the wild. It was completely wiped out from its native range in China in 1900, but luckily a man named Herbrand Russell relocated the last 18 remaining captive deer to Woburn Abbey in England, and to this day it remains a Safari Park which houses a herd of Pere David’s Deer. Since then the deer has been reintroduced in captivity to various parts of China. 

Before their decline, Pere David’s Deer had a large amount of cultural significance. The legend states that 4,000 years ago when a tyrant king ruled the country, a horse, a donkey, an ox, and a deer went to a cave hidden in the forest to meditate. When the King executed his good-willed minister the animals awoke and turned into humans. After learning of the king’s tyranny they turned into a single animal with the antlers and agility of a deer, hooves and strength of an ox, the tail and sense of direction of a donkey, and speed of a horse. This creature, thus known as the Sibuxiang which means ‘the four unlikes’, received a blessing from Yuanshi Tianzun, the Primeval Lord of Heaven and was then ridden into battle and subsequent victory by the Lord’s disciple Jiang Ziya. The animal was henceforth seen as a symbol of good fortune and emperors believed it’s meat could grant eternal life. 

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Pere David’s deer (Elaphurus davidianus) stag skull with the hyoid attached. (No info on the specimen’s origins.)

This was one nasty skull: it’s still covered in dessicated flesh, cartilage, and bits of fur, but I had never seen a cervid skull with the hyoid still attached, so I picked it up and carted it over to a window for better lighting (which involved climbing onto the rack sideways and precariously kneeling on a cougar pelt while trying not to touch the nasty bits).

I turned it upside down for a closer look and discovered most of the soft palate was still intact (though dried and cracking away from the bone). The horny pad where the lower incisors contact was also attached.

Labels added w/ Inkscape to save people from trying to read my handwriting.  :)