Editors Blog

Super Freaks! Bizarre Deer are Usually Genetically Inferior


A piebald whitetail tests the wind.

Some deer pictures are downright fascinating. Like the one here of a piebald buck from Wisconsin.

Although many Whitetail Wisdom readers have sent in photos of bizarre deer, this piebald buck is one of the most unique that we’ve seen in a while here at Deer & Deer Hunting.

White-tailed deer are equipped with natural camouflage. Their reddish-brown summer coats and grayish-brown winter coats enable them to blend into their surroundings. Yet, sprinkled throughout the whitetail population are deer with unique color variations. Here are the reasons why some whitetails have different-colored coats.

On a typical deer, the throat, rump, belly, underside of the tail and inside of the ears are white. Due to genetics, color variations can range from pure white (albinism) to pure black (melanism).

True albinos have white coats, pink eyes and pink noses. Albinos lack an enzyme called tyrosine, which is needed to produce pigment in the skin and coat. The production of pigment is controlled by the pituitary gland in ordinary deer. The condition results from a recessive gene that occurs in less than 1 percent of the population.

The coats of piebald deer exhibit white and brown spotting, although they can be almost entirely white. Unlike true albinos, piebalds generally have brown eyes and black hoofs.

In his book The Deer of North America, Leonard Lee Rue III states that piebald deer are genetically inferior and often the result of uncontrolled deer herds.

“In 1983, I did a series of deer seminars in Illinois,” Rue writes. “In the evening paper, I read that (Illinois) Governor Thompson had just signed a bill that provided full protection to albino deer within the state. What the article failed to explain was just what the new law was protecting. If the law was protecting true albinos, then perhaps it had merit; if it was protecting all of the mutations, then the law was doing the Illinois deer herd a disservice. Mutant deer are definitely inferior, degrading the deer they breed with by passing on harmful recessive genes.”