What kind of animal is a piebald deer?

Although it is hard to determine the cause of the piebaldism in a deer, some scientists believe it has a genetic component.

A piebald deer is one of the rarest white-tailed deer species. This unique type of deer has patches of lighter skin that are usually absent of melanocyte cells, which are responsible for skin, eye, and hair color. The word piebald comes from the "magpie," a type of bird with distinctive black and white feathers. While the piebald deer's appearance isn't beautiful, some hunters argue that they are worth hunting. The fact that these deer are so rare is enough to cause a debate over whether they should be protected.

While piebald deer are typically brown and white, some are almost entirely white. The characteristic makes the animal stand out from the crowd. Piebald deer are often smaller than a typical deer and may also exhibit a prominent overbite or bow nose. Other characteristics of these animals include short legs and an arched spine. The genetic abnormality that causes piebaldism is called pleiotropy, which occurs when one gene controls multiple traits. And such a gene is the one that controls pigmentation, which also appears to control bone growth. This genetic trait is inherited and does not affect the deer's health or lifespan. As a result, a piebald fawn is more likely to die of natural causes than a disease, i.e., piebald deer are perfectly healthy. However, some populations of these animals have severe deformities, making life difficult or even deadly because they are also prone to developing internal organ defects.

The piebald deer is a rare species different from the whitetail deer or the albino deer, and it is not a cross between both, as many think. While the piebald deer is characterized by varying amounts of white hair, the piebald deer's eyes and nose are both brown. Another genetic mutation that affects deer's pigment cell differentiation is melanistic, which is much rarer than albinism in deer. A melanistic piebald deer will blend in well with most surroundings.

Interestingly, this disorder is caused by a recessive gene. That means that both parents must carry the gene in order to have a child with the disorder. When only one parent has the trait, the child will have no telltale markings. However, if both parents have the trait, the child will have white and brown hair and a 25% chance of inheriting both genes. Piebaldism causes changes in the melanin content of the animal's skin. 

It is estimated that there are approximately 28 million whitetail deer in North America, yet only 2% of these are piebald. These deers are thought to be a threat to their herds. This condition prevents them from breeding and passing on their genes. Because piebald deer do not breed and cannot pass on their genes to other deer, hunters say the laws protecting the piebald deer are unjust and are having unintended consequences.

Piebald deer are genetically unique, but this does not mean that they are a distinct species. Piebald deer come in a variety of colors and patterns. Although some are almost entirely white or have a mixture of brown and white fur, others are entirely black. Whether or not you've ever seen a piebald deer, it's an unforgettable experience. These animals are extremely rare, and seeing one is a once-in-a-lifetime event.