Why we never domesticated the red and fallow deer

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  • Why we never domesticated the red and fallow deer

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Why we never domesticated the red and fallow deer


S4-4, Cervids and Society - Deer in Time and Space, poster



Much discussion and conjecture has surrounded the question as to why deer were never domesticated given the close relationship they have had with humankind in Europe and Asia since at least the mesolithic. It has been proposed that they were ‘cynegeticised’. This paper draws on the author’s experiences of working with live deer, and suggests why they were not domesticated. It is proposed that by feeding browse, deer could have been readily tamed and possibly enclosed within natural hedges as recent ecological research has indicated was possible. Feeding browse is known to have permitted selective culling within post-medieval systems of managing wild deer in England. This theory would also answer the long standing conundrum as to how the very large numbers of antlers required for mining and construction work could have been collected. It is argued here that this created the basis for the deer park which demonstrated man’s control over a wild and iconic object symbolising potency and dynastic regeneration. These qualities were also associated with the meat, the sale of which became a tabu which persists in N America where it remains a felony to sell venison. Gifts of venison, as in the 600 year long English ‘Royal Warrant’, were ways in which the donor could purchase favours. In the same way zoologists have argued that hunting chimpanzees use meat to win sexual and political favours from other chimpanzees.




Reediehill Deer Farm, Auchtermuchty, Scotland. tjohn.fletcher@virgin.net


Fletcher, John


August 2010

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Fletcher, John. "Why we never domesticated the red and fallow deer ," in BoneCommons, Item #1138, http://alexandriaarchive.org/bonecommons/items/show/1138 (accessed August 7, 2020).


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