Rut

Talking Animal

I remember looking at a leaflet containing photos of some big angry-looking stags when I was a kid. It was the time of year when red deer and roe deer got horny, filled up to the eyeballs on testosterone, and battled for the right to get it on with the ladies. The rut. Did I want to go to Cannock Chase to observe this wild spectacle? I did. Did I go? I didn’t. This was my lazy-ass fault. I would never have made a good stag.

Several more failed I-really-shoulds and I’m-definitely-going-to-this-years came and went over the decades. And this October I finally dragged that lazy ass out of bed and headed to Richmond Park to gander at the randy ungulates.

Calling stag
A decorated stag bellows

Richmond Park is a daft place. There’s a highway running through the middle of it. The deer aren’t truly wild. And the authorities tell you that they put bullets through their craniums each year for their own good. But, my lordy, the poor bastards still put on a remarkable show.

Stag in the mist
“These ladies are mine”

The deep groans, the roars of the big males, echo throughout the park. Follow the din. They’re easy to find. Guarding their harems, or looking to take control of one, they will, and they do, lock fern-draped antlers.

Male deer chasing female
The cervine Benny Hill

The plan was to make the trip three times. Get to the park three mornings, before sunrise. The first attempt, sure enough, lead to several sightings. Little in the way of moody antler-locking, though. But the second visit revealed all-out warfare. Antlers crashed together and echoed throughout the park like an army of angel dust snorting, wooden-sword wielding children re-enacting a medieval battle. This was joined by an impressively overwhelming stench of urinated sex scent. And I could hear David Attenborough narrating, something I’m more used to hallucinating in locations typically regarded as more “exotic”. But this was exotic. It has been on my doorstep all of my life and it’s taken me this long to witness the special event.

Fighting stags
Ding ding

My lazy ass convinced me that I shouldn’t spoil the moment and that a third visit was unnecessary. Maybe I will seek it out once more next year. Or the year after, possibly. Some time soon, at least.

Written by Patrick Griffiths on .

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