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Why do roosters crow? Why do stags have such magnificent antlers? Why do dogs make good deer-hunting companions? This is a short Taiwanese aboriginal folktale that answers these questions.

The Formosan sika is a charming breed of deer endemic to the island of Taiwan. Sikas are decorated with beautiful pale spots on both sides of their bodies that contrast brightly against a background of beautiful brown fur. These spots are poetically likened to the petals of plum blossoms and, in addition to these, male members of the species also sport proudly a pair of majestic antlers on their heads.

According to this Taiwanese tale, however, sikas originally did not have antlers. These were the property of the dog. The stag was envious of the dog and wanted to borrow the beautiful antlers and try them on. When he voiced his desire to the dog, however, he was flatly refused. Undeterred, the deer turned to his eloquent friend, the rooster, to persuade the dog on his behalf.

“Just a single eve,” begged the deer, “and I’ll be sure to return it first thing in the morning.” The sika pestered his friend until the rooster finally relented and agreed to speak with the dog.

The dog was understandably reluctant at first, for the antlers were his most prized possessions. But the rooster was persuasive and offered to be both a witness and a guarantor.

“I promise you, my dear friend,” the rooster said, “the stag will have it for one night only. Then he shall return it first thing the following morning.”

At last, the dog relented and agreed to give up his beautiful antlers for one night only.

The following morning, the dog went to the sika to retrieve his antlers. But the deer refused to give them back and dashed quickly into the dense forest.

Furious at this turn of events, the dog went looking for the rooster. But there was nothing he could do to help. All the rooster could manage was to desperately crow, “return the antlers!” under the angry and watchful gaze of the dog. The rooster did so each morning as loud as he possibly could, hoping that the deer would hear his plea and return the antlers to its rightful owner.

From that day on, the indigenous Takasago dogs of Taiwan became excellent companions in deer hunts and were frequently employed by the island’s native Austronesian hunters in such expeditions. The rooster, on the other hand, has not failed to call to the deer each and every morning since.

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Posted by:Island Folklore

Taiwanese Tales & Traditions・An online repository of Taiwan's folktales, legends, myths and traditions.