Why do roosters crow? Why do stags have such magnificent antlers? Why do dogs make good deer-hunting companions?

This is a short indigenous Formosan folktale from Taiwan that answers these questions.

Picture: Rooster crowing

The Formosan sika is a charming breed of deer endemic to the island of Taiwan.

Sikas wear coats 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—which is why in Taiwan, they are referred to as Plum Blossom Deer.

Male members of the species also proudly sport a pair of majestic antlers upon their heads.

According to this Taiwanese tale, however, sikas originally did not have antlers, which were the property of the dog.

The stag wished to borrow the beautiful antlers and try them on. The dog, however, flatly refused. Undeterred, the deer turned to his eloquent friend, the rooster, to persuade the dog on his behalf.

“Just a single night,” 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 agreed to speak on his behalf.

The dog was understandably reluctant at first, for the antlers were his most prized possessions. But the rooster was persuasive, indeed.

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

Photo: Male sika deer

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, the dog went looking for the rooster. But there was nothing the rooster could do to.

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.

Illustration: Hunter shooting deer silhouette

From that day on, the indigenous Takasago dogs of Taiwan became expert deer-hunters and were frequently employed by the island’s native Formosan hunters in such expeditions.

The rooster, on the other hand, has not failed to call out to the deer each and every morning since.

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Posted by:The Island Folklore Society

A society for the collection, preservation, translation, promotion and celebration of Taiwanese Tales & Traditions. Visit islandfolklore.org to learn more.