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Most species of deer can be fairly easily tamed. Opinions vary as to whether any of the deer species kept in a farmed condition are really domesticated. The problem lies in the defination of “domestication”.

Because sika of deer have been kept in captivity for centuries, they adjust themselves readily to conditions of domestication.

Individual red deer, wapiti and moose have been trained to pull chariots and reindeer to pull sleds. Many hand-reared deer can be readily handled as adults, but males become dangerous during the rut and may attack and injure people.

An interesting point in connection with domestication is the relationship between man and reindeer. Lapp herdsmen do not herd reindeer, but rather follow their migratory movements year-round.

Man may influence the evolution of certain animal species by selective breeding to adapt them to a particular environment of system of husbandry, through the selection or “fixing” of desirable characteristics and culling undesirable ones. Handling is also an essential technique for taming or domesticating many species. Both approaches are used with farmed deer.

In China special efforts are made to domesticate musk deer, because they have to be handled frequently. Domestication is practised on both a group and individual basis. Individual domestication starts at the age of one week and entails stroking the young twice or three times a day. The duration of stroking depends on the reaction of each individual. One has to make sure not to act rashly, but just do as if scratching an itch. Young that have become used to stroking are led along in enclosures on a halter. Group domestication entails dividing weaners into different herds. These are fed fixed quantities of food on a regular time schedule at the same place in order to accustom them to the presence of people. Efforts are also made to accustom them to various outside stimuli.

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