Ciervo des labios blancos (Sp), Weisslippen Hirsch (G), Cerf de Thorold (F). Also called Lhasa stag, Przewalski deer or white-faced deer. Discovered (by science) in 1883 in the Nan Shan mountains of western Gansu, China, and originally described by Russian explorer Col. Nickolai M. Przewalski. Common name is for Dr. W. G. Thorold, who in 1891 obtained two specimens about 200 miles northeast of Lhasa, Tibet, and sent them to the British Museum. The specific name albirostris is derived from the Latin albus (white) and rostrum (snout), in reference to the white lips and muzzle.
DESCRIPTION (male) Shoulder height about 51 inches (130 cm).
A large deer, distinguished by its pure white muzzle, lips and chin, and by the reverse direction of the hair on its shoulders. The shoulders are somewhat lower than the hindquarters, the head is short, and the muzzle is exceptionally broad. The ears are more than twice as long as the tail and are narrow and pointed. The legs are stout and the hoofs are more like those of cattle than deer, being high, short and wide. The facial glands are very large, usually larger than the eyes. The prominent metatarsal glands are located halfway between hoof and hock, sometimes lower. The coat is long and dense, without an undercoat, and there is no mane. Coloration is dull brown above, darker on head, face and neck, with the underparts lighter. Inside of ears, chin, upper lip and end of muzzle are white. The rump patch is very large, spreading over the top of the hindquarters, buffy-red in color and distinctly outlined. The tail is short and the same color as the rump. The antlers are smooth, slender and flattened, whitish in color, and normally have five points on each side, or 10 total. The brow tine is relatively short, the bez tine is absent, the trez and fourth tines may be very long, and the beam tip divides into two small points.
BEHAVIOR Solitary, in pairs, or in small herds of up to 20. Essentially a grazer. Makes seasonal migrations in some areas. Males retain their antlers until the end of May. Females normally give birth to a single calf each year.
HABITAT From spruce forests up through rhododendrons and willows to grasslands below the peaks, at altitudes of 12,000-16,000 feet (3,650-4,875 m).
DISTRIBUTION Endemic to the Tibetan Plateau, where it is found in southern and eastern Qinghai and adjacent parts of Gansu, eastern Tibet, and western Sichuan.
STATUS Threatened by competition for food from domestic animals that have trebled in number since the 1950s, and by increasing pressure from poachers. Long persecuted by local hunters for its antlers, for which there is considerable demand in the Chinese medicine market. "The species is pursued by many native hunters who are considered chiefly responsible for its threatened extinction. According to the superstition of the Chinese and Tibetans, the antlers in the velvet have a rejuvenating power, and a set costs more than two good riding horses. All bones and flesh are prized for their healing power, and the fresh blood and heart consumed for courage-giving qualities." (Schäfer) Given "first rank" protected status by the Chinese government in 1989; however, a limited number of permits are issued annually to provide funds for protection of the species. In addition to wild populations, there are believed to be about 10,000 animals on 20 deer farms in Qinghai.
REMARKS Seldom taken by sportsmen. There are a mere four entries in Rowland Ward, dating from 1895 to 1921, with the best antlers carrying a total of 10 points, measuring 47 inches (119.4 cm) in length, and having an inside spread of 36-1/2 inches (92.7 cm).