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Thread: Red Deer - Park Bred influence in the UK

  1. #1

    Red Deer - Park Bred influence in the UK

    Hi There,

    I’m down in NZ and thinking of putting together some writing around famous Red Deer sires and their antler traits, and how that’s expressed in Red Deer found on the hill today. I was thinking of including some info on the UK as well. Aside from Woburn and Warnham, are there any big Red Deer studs that are producing stags for the ‘safari’ market in the UK?

    Also, are the Scottish Highland Red Stags being influenced by the likes of Warnham genetics to enhance their antler traits, or are they still left pretty much as they've always been? It's worth noting that a century ago, a Scottish stag over 40" was a rare find, but looking at some of the video footage online now, it looks as if that's not so much the case. (I’m aware that you have a Sika cross-breeding problem in some areas, which I think is very dangerous for pure Red herds, going forward.)


  2. #2
    I would be very intrested in want you find out being from the Lake District with what I believe to be some of the purest red deer in the country also is like to read your writings on nz breedings

  3. #3
    I'd be very interested to read your thoughts on the influential red deer stags.

    Just for interest I still have several thousand straws in storage from the 80's & early 90's when it was still possible to get pure phenotypes & import them into Aust. I'd need to look at the files but I know I have several different German & Eastern/Yugo stags in the tank which were collected when the Iron curtain was still up in the 80's. Stags like "Mostar", "Drava" & "Dr Bruna" come to mind in the yugo's. Big tall silver cranky buggers (350kg) they threw but they were a lot more hardy than elk, just couldn't get them to put fat on (a bit like a race horse).

    I also still have the stud book for all the red deer & elk which were listed with the Aust deer industry association for this period, this includes all the imported lines most of which came through NZ. Owners, dams, sires & pedigree is all there. I'm sure there would be much more extensive records for red deer in NZ at this time given the size of the industry back then. I also still have a but of the advertising material & semen catalogues somewhere.

    It will be very interesting to hear your thoughts, particularly on the heritable strengths & weakness of each phenotype particularly when they reach the F3 generation & if anyone has actually produced a true breeding line (past F5) from any of these crosses. IMO all the best/biggest? stags still come from a 50/50 German/Yugo stag over a good English (Warnham /Woburn/ Furzeland) hind. These crosses don't breed true though, so the need to keep pure lines to produce these "monsters" is still there. IMO this bit gets overlooked?

    Are you doing anything with DNA indicators to see if the specific traits you are focussing on are traceable back to a particular phenotype or stag?

    "Men Who Stare at Deer."

  4. #4
    That's real interesting Sharkey. I'd be holding on tight to those straws, as who knows where the true subspecies of Red deer are going to end up in the long run with so many crosses etc happening. You could accidently end up with some of the only pure examples in time.

    I had a small herd once, but my main interest comes from the antler traits found in our wild herds down here and how they can be traced visually via antler collections to the place of origin in Europe. Bruce Banwell is the man who has done most of the work on this down here, but it's not in an easy to understand format and is spread across many different sources. So that's my starting point... but the safari antler business is huge now, and there's a lot of interest in the how and why of crossing Warnham with Woburn with Eastern etc, which I could garner from some of the industry experts / scientists here in NZ and write up. I'm just not aware of such a big industry in the UK, and I'm not aware if people are actually doing these crosses in the Scottish Highlands or not?

    To answer your question, re DNA, I'm not involved in the industry, but there are Red Deer breeding businesses here in NZ who do have that data, and I will approach them later. Some of the data is commercially sensitive, so they don't tell enthusiasts like me everything. ;-)

  5. #5
    Cheers mate.

    I feel the same about those straws & the reality is that there has now been western red deer released into the home range of C e pannonensis (Bruce gave them that title). I have let several folks in the indigenous range of this sub species know that I have them & also would look very kindly upon them being used for restoration. Also some of my German straws apparently has providence back to Hermann Goring when Marshal Tito "borrowed" his deer after the war. Apparently Tito was another deer tragic & kept all these lines pure. He also brought whitetail into eastern europe.

    I'm not into red deer as much as I am into the Asiatics. As well as Javan rusa & sambar I have some of the only pure mollucan rusa left. I also do a bit with persian fallow but still consider the little rusa far more at risk of extinction than them (there must only be a few hundred left I'd guess, & the IUCN isn't interested either). It has always been my intent to keep several pure phenotypes of red deer (I can easily split them into five here) I just haven't got around to it yet. I hope to one day.

    Keep us up to date with your findings please.
    "Men Who Stare at Deer."

  6. #6
    To quote from "Behavior and Management of European Ungulates" (Putman & Apollonio)

    "The red deer is the most manipulated species out of the 11 species in total that are native to the European continent.
    In all 27 countries where it occurs some reintroductions/ restocking has taken place at some point."

    There is a very useful table (3.1) on pages 50-55 in chapter 3 which lists these various reintroductions.

    To do justice to the book and other published research on deer DNA such as that which appears occasionally in the BDS Deer Journal these really need reading in detail but it all suggests that many of the various sub-species of red deer contain genetic markers from other red deer sub-species.

    atb Tim

  7. #7
    Highland red deer are more influenced by the environment than genetics, by that I mean that there have been several introductions of park blood in the past in the hope of improving the population, has had very little effect
    even a big park stag will reduce in stature within two or three years and become not much different from the rest of the stags on the hill.

    By the same token a a highland stag taken to a lowland environment can grow to a considerable size.

    It would appear nurture plays a bigger part than nature in Higland deer,

  8. #8
    Regular Poster KBar1970's Avatar
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    Aug 2011
    Suffolk [North; where the pines and pigs are]
    A number of the red deer in south Norfolk around Thetford and King's Forest share genetics from park deer [hence the large heads], through deer being left out when the Norwich Staghounds were still hunting in the district (up until the early 1960s)

    Carted staghunting used at least one stag on each hunting day, being 'enlarged' [released] from the deer cart and given 20 minutes 'law' [start]. Hounds would then be laid on and at the end of the hunt, when the stag stood to bay, instead of the stag being dispatched, the hunt staff would take Hounds away and the stag would be returned to the deer cart.

    A number of the stags at the Staghounds' deer paddocks were from park stock, and these genes were passed on when hunted stags became 'outliers'.

    G Kenneth Whitehead's excellent tome 'Hunting and Stalking Deer In Britain through the Ages' has more detail. The BDS Journal recently carried an article on the subject of wild red deer containing park deer genetics

  9. #9
    Get yourself a copy of The Royal Stags of Windsor by D.Bruce Banwell publishers The Halcyon Press,GPO Box360 Auckland New Zealand isbn 0-908685-92-0 1994
    The saga of the Windsor Great Park Red Deer in New Zealand and Australia.A mine of information from a world expert and a New Zealander to boot.

    You will find the purest Scottish Red deer are in the Otago district ( not Scotland )

    A recent paper: Genetic consequences of human management in an introduced island population of red deer ( cervus elaphus ) by Hussey et al may interest you

  10. #10
    Thanks for the replies and discussion chaps.

    Morena, agreed: that book contains a lot. I've studied Bruce Banwell's writings extensively. He was a friend and his recent passing was a great loss to NZ. He was our version of the UK's G. Kenneth Whitehead. I also have his excellent book, among others by Whitehead.

    I've been a bit involved in this 'pure nz Scottish deer' debate down here, and I think the science doesn't agree (yet) with the claim that NZ has the purest Scottish Deer. Ours are still pure, but the Scottish Highlands also still holds pure "Scoticus' Red Deer, as the introduced deer had very little impact on the greater mass. There are some places in the Highlands where that's not the case, but NZ cannot claim to have the purist just yet... I say 'yet' because if your Sika invasion continues into the Highlands it will eventually destroy pure Red Deer such is the slightly earlier rutting behavior of Sika stags, who disproportionately end up mating with Red hinds.

    The science paper that disproved NZ's claims to the most pure is:
    "Genetic diversity and population structure of Scottish Highland red deer (Cervus elaphus) populations: a mitochondrial survey" by Sílvia Pérez-Espona, who I've had some brief email discussions with in the past.

    Nobody is telling me that the Estates are releasing big game-park bred heads into the Highlands for 'stalking' like we have down here on NZ farms. It's a big industry down here where SCI types come out and 'hunt' farmed stags with unnatural SCI scores. Some of these stags almost have a cult following. Is it true that nobody is doing that style of 'hunting' in Scotland / UK?

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