Two horses and a deer – a story

Getting acquainted.

Getting acquainted.


LIVING RURAL — One of the prettiest sights I’ve seen in a long while unveiled itself to me one evening as I went out to feed the horses.

At the watering trough, a fawn stood between our two horses, drinking. All three were unconcerned, enjoying the moment, as did I. After a couple of minutes, the fawn moved off to a corner of the corral and laid down.

One of the ugliest sights I’ve ever seen met me the next morning when I again went out to feed the horses. Our dog Jesse caught something in the wind and went to investigate.

Out in the pasture were the remains of the tiny deer. When I say remains, all that was left was the head and rib cage. All around were great quantities of blood — its death was violent.

I’ve always had a grudging admiration for coyotes, for they’re an amazingly resilient and crafty animal, but I was angry that morning. Maybe more angry with the cruel ways of Mother Nature than with any of her creatures.

I decided, since Nature had already done here cruel work, to let jer finish the job, and left the remains of the little fawn where they were— a few hours later there was no evidence it had ever been there, except for the blood on the grass.

The fawn had been around for a couple of days. I first found it bedded down in one of the horse’s stalls. I took the common advice, which was not to touch it and leave it alone. They say the mother is always close by.

Does will often leave a fawn for hours, returning later and moving it somewhere else. I wondered and worried about this one, and thought it might be an orphan, but what do you do with a baby deer?

I’m convinced now that it was, indeed, orphaned, and that it probably felt some comfort in the presence of the horses, fellow beings that presented no threat.

I was curious about how the two species could find anything in common, and even share space. How does a deer that’s been on this Earth only a few weeks know the difference between a predator and one that’s not?

Turns out that fawns moving in with horses isn’t totally unheard of. There are stories of horses and fawns calmly hanging out in pastures together, and even of horses actually adopting fawns and becoming their guardians as they’ve grown up.

I assume there weren’t any coyotes in the neighbourhood.

Deer and dogs sometimes become friends as well. I guess it’s about trust. My deer trusted, or sensed, that the horses provided a safe refuge.

Deer — such as the ones that have been coming through the yard at night to help themselves to what’s left of my kale — can be incredible pests, and there’s certainly no shortage of them. The slaughter on the road between here and town goes on almost every day and yet, there are always lots of deer. That’s life and death in the country.

I would have liked, though, for that one little fawn to be spared Mother Nature’s fixation on survival of the fittest.

This column was first published in


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