The Chinese Water Deer Grows Fangs Instead of Antlers

Take a sprinkle of bat, a dash of rabbit, a pinch of goat, and a handful of deer and you’ve got yourself a water deer. Also known as a vampire deer because of its fangs, water deer are native to Korea and China, but have spread after being imported to Great Britain, France, Argentina and parts of the United States. Water deer are more closely related to tiny musk deer than any other deer, which is why they normally have darker brown fur than regular deer, with a lighter shade covering the front of the neck and underside. Their official name — Hydropotes inermis — translates to “without armor” because these woodland creatures don’t have antlers. Neither males nor females grow the bony adornments for fighting and sexual attraction. Instead, they grow tusks of up to an average of 2 inches long that resemble impressive and dangerous fangs. These large canines have no other function than to be weapons. Despite their strength, this species only grows to just below 2 feet tall when full-grown, and weighs an average 20–31 pounds. Their back legs aid them in moving very fast across land, not so much by running, but more like a rapid, elongated hopping. Unlike regular deer, their ears are rounded instead of pointy. From straight on, their faces look almost teddy bear-like, but careful of those fangs! Bucks use their tusks to fight off other bucks for potential mates and to protect themselves against predators. Unlike antlered deer, fighting between water deer rarely results in death, though their sharp fangs can cause serious injuries. They are also excellent swimmers, known to tread up to 7 miles without rest.