Last weekend I was enjoying a skype chat with my old school friend Marj who now lives in Norfolk (UK); she mentioned that her partner had been given a piece of Chinese Water Deer (CWD) to cook by someone who shoots locally. She asked me if I’d eaten it in China.
Well, no I hadn’t, and what is more I’d never heard of it. Time for some investigating..and very interesting it turned out to be.
Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis inermis) are native to China and some parts of South Korea. They are a small stocky animal fairly similar to the Musk Deer. As their name suggests they live in the tall reeds and grasses of wetlands or marshy areas beside streams and rivers, where they feed on the rushes, sedges, and coarse grasses which grow in such places.
They are the only type of deer where the male does not produce antlers, but they have something else – tusks – two long canine teeth which protrude about 2-3 inches below the deer’s mouth. Because of this they are often referred to as Vampire Deer.
Although they are not an ‘endangered’ species in China, the population is considered vulnerable, therefore they are protected. In fact there are now almost as many CWD in England where the population is increasing as there are in China where they are in decline.
So how is it that they are now living and being hunted in East Anglia?
Back in the 19th Century, Herbrand Russell 11th Duke of Bedford acquired new species for the deer park at his stately home Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. He collected 42 varieties of dear from around the world, and in 1896 some
Chinese Water Deer were added to the park. At the time several managed to escape and it is from these escapees that the wild population has grown.
Most venison has little if any fat, but the CWD has a thick layer of fat across its back which means that the meat is less dry than venison from other species. Some people claim it tastes more like lamb than venison. What did you and Nick think Marj?