Late at night, when sleep eludes us and our minds wander into the realm of peculiar questions, it's not uncommon for us to ponder life's oddest mysteries. Questions like, "Do deer sweat?" or "Do penguins fart?" suddenly become strangely compelling. Today, we embark on an expedition into the quirky world of deer physiology to answer one of these burning questions: Do deer sweat, and do they have sweat glands? While we won't be diving into penguin flatulence in this article, we'll certainly satisfy your curiosity about deer's sweaty secrets. Btw, deer fart silently. But that was a sidestep. :)
Eccrine Glands: The Cooling Mechanism?
When it comes to humans they're responsible for keeping us from overheating. When we get hot, our eccrine sweat glands kick into gear, producing the liquid we know as sweat. As it evaporates, it cools us down.
But most mammals don't have large numbers of sweat glands like humans do or their eccrine glands are not doing the same function as ours.
"Eccrine sweat glands—millions of which produce our salty, cooling perspiration—are actually found in all mammals. But in most other animals, the fluid from eccrine glands is not used to cool down, but to provide grip. Most mammals have eccrine pores only in the soles of their feet or hands." [source]
Deer Hot Weather Strategy
When it's hotter than a jalapeño in a sauna, deer have a different plan to stay chill. Instead of sweating up a river, they opt for a more relaxed strategy. Deer on our farm will often congregate under the trees or find a nice spot of shade around the farm buildings. It's like they're having their own version of a summer picnic, without the sandwiches.
They also scale back on their deer-y activities (pun intended) to conserve energy and minimize heat production. Deer sit and wait for milder temperatures to get busy.
On hot summer days deer drink tons of water. And some species, when have access to ponds, rivers or streams, will come and stand in the water to cool down. We noticed this is more common for red deer than fallow.
Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash
When deer feel extremely hot, for example, after running or fighting, they pant, similar to dogs. They're taking faster breaths with mouths wide open and so the moisture evaporating in their noses, mouths and lungs acts like an internal air conditioning system, keeping them chill from the inside out! In extreme cases tongues can be observed hanging out the side of their mouths.
So if you want to help deer keep their cool, you have to preserve and plant more trees. Actually, evergreen trees also help deer keep a tad warmer and drier in winter, sheltering from wind and rain.
Further reading How to Create a Heat Refuge for Deer
So, there you have it – the lowdown on whether deer sweat. The verdict? Nope. Deer eccrine sweat glands are more focused on keeping their hooves and tootsies moist and grippy than regulating their temperature. When it's sizzling outside, they opt for the shade and slow down the pace, letting nature do its thing to keep them cool. These guys are like the chill gurus of the animal kingdom, always knowing how to keep their cool in a world that can be hot as heck.
Published 03 October 2023