HYBRID DEER AND ANTELOPE

ANTELOPE

There are a wide variety of Antelope hybrids recorded in zoos, this is generally due to a lack of more appropriate mates in the enclosure. It also shows how closely related some of the species are - in fact some are essentially variant populations of the same species and are prevented from hybridization in the wild by behavioural differences. A mating between a male Eland and a female Kudu produced a sterile male hybrid that resembled the Eland. Blue Wildebeest produce fertile hybrids with the smaller Black Wildebeest and this has led to an entire herd of 180 "genetically contaminated" Black Wildebeest being destroyed in a wildlife conservation park (rather unfortunate, as "species purity" is a human concept; nature will exploit the best genes available, even if it means crossing a species boundary). In the early 1900s there were reports that the London Zoological Society had successfully mated several species of antelopes, for instance, the water-bucks Kobus ellipsiprymnus and Kobus unctuosus, and the Selouss antelope Limnotragus seloussi with Limnotragus gratus.

The listed hybrids include: Bongo/Sitatunga; Lesser Kudu/Sitatunga; Eland/Greater Kudu; Blue Duiker/Maxwell's Duiker; Bay Duiker/Red-flanked Duiker; Bay Duiker/ Zebra Duiker; Black Duiker/Kaffir Duiker; Cape Hartebeest/Blesbok; Bontebok/Blesbok; Black Wildebeest/Blue Wildebeest; Common Waterbuck/Defassa Waterbuck; Defassa Waterbuck/Nile Lechwe; Defassa Waterbuck/Kob; Nile Lechwe/Kob; Kafue Lechwe/Ellipsen Waterbuck; Red-fronted Gazelle/Thomson's Gazelle; Beisa Oryx/Fringe-eared Oryx; Grant's Gazelle/Thomson's Gazelle; Beisa Oryx/Gemsbok; Arabian Oryx/Scimitar-horned Oryx; Thomson's Gazelle/Roosevelt's Gazelle; Slender-horned Gazelle/Persian Goitered Gazelle; Persian Gazelle/Blackbuck; Cuvier's Gazelle/Slender-horned Gazelle. Oryxes and Addaxes freely interbreed, forming fertile hybrids, and Berlin Tierpark had a triple hybrid when a female (Addax x Scimitar-horned Oryx) was bred to a male Arabian Oryx. Addax/Oryx hybrids closely resemble the Addax parent and are sometimes erroneously traded as Addax; when the hybrids are bred back to the parental species of Oryx, the second generation more closely resembles the Oryx. This readiness to interbreed has implications for conservation with some zoos discovering their Oryx stock to be mongrelised.

In zoos, Masai and Rothschild’s Giraffes hybridize and the hybrid "generic" population is outnumbering the pure-bred populations. This is a problem for conservationists trying to preserve pure species.

DEER

In "Origin of Species" (1859) Charles Darwin wrote "Although I do not know of any thoroughly well-authenticated cases of perfectly fertile hybrid animals, I have some reason to believe that the hybrids from Cervulus vaginalis and Reevesii [two types of muntjac] [...] are perfectly fertile." A number of deer hybrids are bred to improve meat yield in farmed deer. The American Elk can hybridize with the Red Deer (the European Elk is known as Moose in the USA). The hybrids are about 30% more efficient in producing antler by comparing velvet to body weight. Wapiti have been introduced into some European Red Deer herds to improve the Red Deer type, but not always with the intended improvement. In New Zealand, where deer have been introduced, there are hybrid zones between Red Deer and North American Wapiti populations and also between Red Deer and Sika Deer populations. In New Zealand Red Deer have been artificially hybridized with Pere David Deer in order to create a farmed deer which gives birth in spring. The initial hybrids were created by artificial insemination and back-crossed to Red Deer.

A hybrid deer at the New Delhi Zoo resulted from a chital and a sika deer "getting mixed up" on the estate of the President of India. The chital/sika hybrid doe offspring was then mated to a swamp deer at the zoo because the swamp deer was "sex starved" and the zoo was unable to acquire a female swamp deer. The resulting intergeneric hybrid offspring was a doe and resembled a swamp deer (50% swamp deer, 25% chital, 25% sika).

In Canada, farming of European Red Deer and Red Deer hybrids is considered a threat to native Wapiti. In Britain, the introduced Sika Deer is considered a threat to native Red Deer. Initial Sika Deer/Red Deer hybrids occur when young Sika stags expand their range into established red deer areas and have no Sika hinds to mate with. They mate instead with young Red hinds and produce fertile hybrids. These hybrids mate with either Sika or Red Deer, resulting in mongrelization. Many of the Sika Deer which escaped from British parks were probably already hybrids for this reason. In 2009 it was reported that pure-bred wild red deer (Cervus elaphus) in mainland Scotland may be lost due to breeding with Japanese sika deer (Cervus nippon) introduced in the 19th Century. In some areas, up to 40% of deer are mongrelised, permanently polluting the gene pool and changing the appearance and behaviour of the native deer over generations. The first generation hybrids are spotted, like sika deer. Previously, the overall impact on the native species was thought to be low. Introduction of mongrel deer or sika to islands where pure-bred red deer exist is prohibited.

In the USA, sika interbreed with the American waipiti (elk). The hybrid of the sika doe and the American waipiti/elk is called a "silk" deer.

Sika deer are less tolerant than red deer of other deer species and the hybrids may inherit this behaviour, driving out roe or fallow deer from areas they previously shared with native red deer.

In captivity, Mule Deer have been mated to White-tail Deer (in both directions), but less than 50% of the hybrid fawns survived the first few months. Hybrids have been reported in the wild but are disadvantaged because they don't properly inherit survival strategies. Mule Deer bound (all 4 hooves hit the ground at once, called "stotting") to escape predators. Stotting is so specialized that only 100% genetically pure Mule Deer seem able to do it. In captive hybrids, a one-eight White-tail/seven-eighths Mule Deer hybrid has an erratic escape behaviour and would be unlikely to survive to breed. Hybrids do survive on game ranches where both species are kept and predators are controlled by man.

MOOSE-HORSE HYBRID?

In July 2006, a rancher in French-speaking Quebec province, the Gaspe Peninsula, claimed a funny-looking foal was the result of a mating between a wild moose and a mare. The male foal, called Bambi, has a relatively large, heavy-looking head with a drooping mouth and has long, relatively thick legs. The owner, Francois Larocque, claimed it had the head of a moose on a horse's body. Bambi allegedly likes to spend time in a nearby forest where moose live. It also sleeps lying down rather than standing up and this was cited as not being horse-like even though foals do sleep lying down while adult horses sleep standing. This suggests an unfamiliary with horses and foals!

Although there have been reports of moose mating with horses, according to biologist Gilles Landry of Quebec's parks and wildlife department, no offspring have ever resulted. Moose and horses are not just different species, they belong to two completely different orders: moose are Cetartiodactyla while horses are Perissodactyla. This is simply a foal with a deformities and genetic tests are likely to confirm this identity. The unusual physical proportions could be due to recessive genes e.g. a heavy horse somewhere in its ancestry. Larocque insisted his only 2 stallions were gelded a month before the foal was conceived. There are apparently no other stallions in the region, though there are moose in the nearby wildlife reserve. It is very evidently not an adopted moose calf as it lacks the cloven hooves of the moose.

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