AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Don’t get too horny, deer

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 14, 2008

THE TRADITIONAL AUTUMN CEREMONY for cutting deer horns began at Nara Park in Nara City on the 11th. Not that the deer wanted any part of it—they bucked like broncs and twisted their horns in a desperate effort to escape. The spectators weren’t rooting for the underdogs, either; they cheered when the beaters cornered and then caught the deer.

The ceremony has been conducted since 1671 to prevent the male deer from injuring people at the start of mating season. Nara Park is actually a reservation for deer, which are almost extinct in this country. The males and females are usually kept in separate herds throughout the year and graze on open grassland. So it’s not surprising that the male deer would be particularly rambunctious right about now. After a year spent in isolation with other males, “tonight’s the night!” as the old joke has it.

It was almost as if the beaters were recreating a scene from the old American West, though of course this ceremony is much older. Like seasoned cattle wranglers, they tracked the deer down and reeled them in with a lasso. Several deerpokes worked together to wrestle the horny bucks to the ground, where instead of branding them, they sliced off 50 to 55 centimeters of horn with a saw.

The ceremony continued for three hours each on both the 12th and the 13th, during which about 50 head of deer were dehorned in all. Visitors had to pay for the privilege of watching; admission was 1,000 yen for adults ($US 9.94 as of 6:53 p.m. JST) and 300 yen for children.

A first-time visitor said she found the event impressive. She admitted to feeling a bit sorry for the deer, but figured that was the price to be paid when deer and people lived together.

Just don’t let PETA know!

One Response to “Don’t get too horny, deer”

  1. RMilner said

    How can the male deer fight each other with no horns?

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