Polite “Bowing” Deer in Japan

Have you heard of the bowing deer of Nara?

Sika deer (probably from shika, Japanese for “deer”) are spotted into maturity and still have a strong population in Japan. They were once sacred, considered divine messengers, and now they are protected. In Nara Prefecture, they roam freely and harass visitors for treats.

English: Sika deer (Cervus nippon) in Kofuku-j...
Sika deer (Cervus nippon) in Kofuku-ji (Nara, Japan). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They are often called “bowing deer” because many have learned to bow politely for their senbei treats, sold to tourists to feed to the deer. Wikipedia suggests this is due to dangerous headbutting behavior, but today I wrote another post on their bowing and their aggressive behavior over on my behavior blog, so I’ll keep it short here and just say that the bowing can be a simple learned behavior as well as a threat, and you can see both in action in the Nara deer.

The deer roam freely through many areas, particularly near parks and temples as at right. Here’s what the polite bowing (non-threatening) looks like:

Kawaii (“cute, adorable”) indeed.

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