Although there are several distinct species of deer native to the Maya rainforest, it is the white-tailed deer that is most frequently depicted in the art of the Maya.

White-tailed deer, photo by Nicholas Hellmuth.

The white-tailed deer can be identified it by its white tail which lifts up when alarmed and antlers supported by stags late in the year.

The deer stands a metre or so high at its shoulder, a greyish brown coat covers much of its body, it has a white belly, white-tipped chin, and stubby, white tail.

Females generally weigh around 30 kg and males 50 kg.

White-tailed deer (

At night the eyes flash a pale yellow and although generally quiet, a deer may stamp at the ground or sound whistling bleats and snorts.

White-tailed deer are herbivorous, meaning they eat only plants.

Deer in Maya Art

Deer meat was an esteemed food offering to the gods and also ate by the nobles.

Many Maya vases showing deer being hunted. Below you can see a hunting scene, where a deer has been captured and is hanging over the captor’s back.

Deer themselves were also painted on bowls and plates as can be seen below:

Vase from

Finally, here is a wonderful example of a deer whistle!

Casa Santo Domingo, Guatemala

Why don’t you try making your own?

You can follow the instructions for a bird whistle below, but just change its shape.

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