This drawing, "Lithographed from Nature by T. R. Peale,"1 and labled "Cervus Macrotis ["large-eared"], Black-tailed or Mule Deere," appeared in the official report of Long's expedition of 1819-20.2 The buttes in the background suggest the region where this specimen was acquired – on the upper Arkansas River, probably in the Texas panhandle. The preorbital gland Lewis remarked upon is conspicuous. The "slingshot" forks of the antlers are the mule deer's signature.
Nicholas Biddle's 1814 paraphrase didn't include the 745-word description Lewis wrote on Friday, May 10, 1805, but the brief reference he accorded the discovery was sufficient to draw later zoologists' and illustrators' attention to this new species. The first scientific account was published in 1819 by Thomas Say.
The brownish spots on the page, called foxmarks, are discolorations frequently caused by fungal or chemical reactions in 18th- and early 19th-century papers.
Drawing from live models was the way Titian Peale preferred to work, but he resorted to dead specimens as an expedient when capture was impractical. In the case of the mule deer, however, he was compelled to accept a further compromise. With the encouragement of a cash bonus, one of the hunters finally brought in the carcass of a full-grown buck "possessing all the characters of the perfect animal"--one that would satisfy the requirements of a type specimen. But the entire 17-man party was on the verge of starvation in the game-scarce desert, and getting their teeth into the meat was urgent. So, while the rest of the party stood by impatiently, Titian Peale drew a working sketch by the light of the evening campfire, and Thomas Say wrote a few notes and took the measurements he needed. Then they surrendered the meat to the hungry, and preserved the hide and head to be taken back east, where it was to have been mounted in Charles Willson Peale's museum. There, unfortunately, another hangup developed, according to Say:
Since our return to Philadelphia, the following description of the animal has been drawn out from the dried skin, which, however, is so much injured by depredating insects, that it has not been judged proper to mount it entire. The head has therefore been separated from the remaining portion of the skin, and may be seen in the Philadelphia Museum, placed under the foot of a Prairie wolf, (Canis latrans. Say.) which has been well prepared by Mr. T. Peale.
John Bachman, who wrote the narratives for Audubon's paintings of quadrupeds, described the mule deer's geographical distribution, documenting the growth in zoologists' understanding of the new species as of the middle of the 19th century:
Lewis and Clark were still on naturalists' minds.
1. Titian Ramsay Peale (1799-1885), the youngest of the seven sons of Charles Willson Peale. C.W. Peale was the leading portraitist of the Revolutionary War era and the early republic.
Funded in part by a grant from the Idaho Governor's Lewis and Clark Trail Committee.