Watch out for muntjac, warns David Tomlinson
Long, sharp teeth can pose a genuine threat to gundogs when muntjac attack. I well remember my first serious encounter with a muntjac. It was on a rough day in Northamptonshire in the 1990s. At the time, I lived in Kent, where we had no muntjac, so my spaniels had never come across these diminutive deer before. I was hunting a hedge with my two spaniels, mother and daughter, when they came across a muntjac doe with a small fawn. My senior spaniel retrieved the latter, while her daughter chased the doe. My spaniel was soft-mouthed, so I was able to release the fawn unharmed. I look back on my action with some guilt, for I really should have been sensible enough to have tapped the youngster on the head. (Read more about muntjac here.)
Muntjac are a serious menace in the countryside and every opportunity should be taken to control their burgeoning population. I now live in Suffolk, where I see muntjac daily and frequently come across them when out with my dogs. This morning’s encounter was typical. Emma, my sprocker, was drawn to a thick tangle of brambles, from which she flushed a muntjac doe. She doesn’t usually chase muntjac, but having flushed this particular beast, she did a quick pursuit to see it off.
Dogs encounter muntjac at their peril, for these small deer are equipped with canine teeth, an unusual arrangement for an animal that is a herbivore. The buck’s canines can be about 6cm long, with a cutting edge and sharp point. They are an important weapon that these animals don’t hesitate to use. Interestingly, most bucks manage to break their canines at some stage in their life. In contrast, although the doe also has canine teeth, they are small and insignificant, and not used in defence. Thus, from a gundog point of view, muntjac are almost certainly the most dangerous wild animal that is likely to be encountered when working in the English countryside and I do know of dogs that have been killed by them. However, they are typical deer in that they invariably run away when disturbed by a dog and the buck is only really dangerous if cornered.
So yes a muntjac attack is not unknown and dogs should never be allowed to corner one. (Read more on gundog insurance here.)