Deer With Fangs: Genetic Throwback or Modern Crossbreed?

   12.18.20

Deer With Fangs: Genetic Throwback or Modern Crossbreed?

(Image: NDA/deer with fangs and facial stripes)

I recently ran across an interesting article on the NDA website about a whitetail deer with odd face markings and canine teeth, claiming it “was a throwback to extinct whitetail ancestors.” Personally, I think the explanation is probably simpler, but I’m no whitetail scientist.

The article was posted last year and it discusses a Louisiana buck killed in 2016 which had a distinctive Y marking on its face as well as a pair of fangs or canine teeth in the skull. Both of these features are notable and worthy of discussion. Author of the post Lindsay Thomas Jr. theorized these traits were “genetic echoes from deeper in the whitetail ancestry than some experts have ever seen.”

The facial markings and canine teeth are both traits of the Asian muntjac, also known as “rib-faced” or “barking” deer.

Me, I just figure a wild whitetail must have crossbred with a free-roaming muntjac which escaped from some high-fence game reserve or perhaps a zoo. Of course my theory lacks the intrigue of Thomas’s, and he has considerably more experience than I at studying whitetails as a species. And he notes that the canine teeth are not unique to the Louisiana buck in question:

“You’ve probably heard of or seen photos of whitetails with small upper canine teeth – which they should not have. You may have even killed a deer like this. They are rare, but I know more people who have killed deer with canine teeth than people who have won millions in the lottery.”

Whichever notion is correct, it’s certainly interesting to think of — and discuss — deer with such unusual traits. And they are not restricted to the buck shot in 2016. Two years later, the same hunter got a trail-camera photo of another buck with similar black facial stripes.

I have never noticed any deer with fangs on the many whitetails I’ve encountered in Florida and Georgia, but the canine teeth are usually so small as to not be noticed unless the skull is cleaned for a European mount. Have you ever run into any fanged whitetails?

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