Actual Existence Of Cute Deer With Vampire Fangs

Planet Earth is home to some seemingly unusual animals that most of us would find extremely odd. The “vampire deer” is one of those creatures. One could even mistake it for some menacing cousin of the sabertooth tiger, but it is, in fact, quite tiny and very shy. Also, you won’t find meat or blood on its menu.

The teeth of the musk deer aren’t used for hunting. Image credit: Николай Усик

But wait, aren’t deer supposed to have antlers instead of fangs?

Well, the truth is that back in the day, when deer species were first evolving, they were relatively small animals that had both antlers and fangs. Believe it or not, the first deer species had a lot of resemblance to some of the vampire deer that live on our planet today.

Larger deer, though, went through a lot of changes; as they were growing bigger, their fangs only got shorter, and their antlers eventually reached the size that is typical of deer today, such as you see on elk, moose, or reindeer. Fanged deer species, on the other hand, inherited many of the characteristics of their ancestors, including their tusks, which make more sense for smaller deer that live in thick forests and bushes, since they are less likely to get tangled up in something, unlike if they had antlers.

The skull of a Siberian musk deer. The impressive fangs are also used for fighting. Image credit: Didier Descouens

Don’t let the fangs fool you; they may be able to inflict serious wounds, but these peaceful creatures would rather enjoy eating a nice shrub than a piece of meat. Their diet also consists of leaves, herbs, bramble, raspberry, and vegetables. Their choice of food can differ between the different fanged deer species. For example, the favorite meal of the Siberian musk deer is lichen.

The pointy teeth are only present on male deer. While they are effective weapons against other bucks or predators, these fangs also serve the purpose of attracting female deer for mating.

Several deer species share this unique trait, such as the musk deer, tufted deer, muntjac, and water deer. All of them are native to particular parts of Asia, but a group of water deer has made a name for themselves in the United Kingdom as well. They escaped from the London Zoo in 1929 and headed for the countryside, where their population has been thriving ever since. The English population accounts for 10% of all water deer in the world.

Sadly, most of the above-mentioned species are now endangered due to their loss of habitat and poachers hunting them illegally. The Kashmir musk deer was even thought to be extinct until 2014, when researchers spotted a single male in the wild for the first time in 60 years. Musk deer are the most endangered of all fanged deer species; a kilo of scent glands from these deer is worth $45,000, since it can be used in manufacturing perfume. This has led to a severe decrease in their population, and although their hunting is banned, illegal poaching is still occurring.

Another fanged deer, the tufted deer can be found in central China and northeastern Myanmar. Image credit: Heush

These harmless herbivores have one of the most interesting appearances in the animal kingdom, and although their deceiving looks might suggest that we should beware of them, it’s quite the other way around: we should rather focus on preserving these awesome creatures.

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