PPère David's Deer are a very special addition to the ranch. Extinct in the wild since 1938, we purchase these deer whenever possible. The herd is protected and allowed to grow and prosper here on the ranch, and they are often found near our 17 acres of lakes. They are naturally quite tame, and are wonderful to watch.
Our hopes are that one day members of our herd can be sent to zoos, other conservation groups, and even back to China to help repopulate this very endangered species.
The Père David's deer is endemic to the Chinese region. According to fossil records, the species first appeared during the Pleistocene period, when it could be found anywhere in the Manchuria. This demography changed during the Holocene period; during this time, the species could only be found in the swamp lands and wetlands of southern China. Due to hunting and land reclamation, the demography of the Père David's deer became even smaller. By 1939, the last of the wild species were shot and killed.
The species is sometimes known by its informal name sibuxiang (Chinese: 四不像; pinyin: sì bú xiàng; Japanese: shifuzō), literally meaning "four not alike", which could mean "the four unlikes" or "like none of the four"; it is variously said that the four are cow, deer, donkey, horse (or) camel, and that the expression means in detail:
"the hooves of a cow but not a cow, the neck of a camel but not a camel, antlers of a deer but not a deer, the tail of a donkey but not a donkey."
"the nose of a cow but not a cow, the antlers of a deer but not a deer, the body of a donkey but not a donkey, tail of a horse but not a horse"
"the tail of a donkey, the head of a horse, the hoofs of a cow, the antlers of a deer"
"the neck of a camel, the hoofs of a cow, the tail of a donkey, the antlers of a deer" "the antlers of a deer, the head of a horse and the body of a cow"
By this name, this undomesticated animal entered Chinese mythology as the mount of Jiang Ziya in Fengshen Bang (translated as Investiture of the Gods), a Chinese classical work of fiction written during the Ming Dynasty.
According to Chinese legend, when the tyrant King Zhou of Shang ruled the land more than 3,000 years ago, a horse, a donkey, an ox and a deer went into a cave deep in the forest to meditate and on the day the King executed his virtuous minister Bigan, the animals awoke from their meditation and turned into humans. They entered society, learned of the King's heinous acts and wanted to take recourse against the King, who was powerful. So they transformed themselves into one creature that combined the speed of the horse, the strength of the ox, the donkey's keen sense of direction and the nimble agility of the deer. This new animal then galloped to the Kunlun Mountains to seek the advice of the Primeval Lord of Heaven. The Lord was astonished at the sight of a creature that had antlers of a deer, hooves of an ox, face of a horse and tail of a donkey. "It's unlike any of four creatures!" he exclaimed. Upon learning of the animal's quest, Lord gave his blessing and dispatched the creature to his disciple the sage Jiang Ziya, who was battling the King. Jiang Ziya rode the creature to victory over the King and helped found the Zhou Dynasty. After fulfilling its vow, the milu settled in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. The animal became a symbol of good fortune and was sought by later emperors who believed eating the meat of the milu would lead to everlasting life.