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.