Cherokee Cultural Department » How the Deer Got His Antlers

How the Deer Got His Antlers

How the Deer Got His Antlers


Retold by Lloyd Arneach


Mr. Arneach said that he heard this myth from his uncles.


Long ago the animals were just like people. Some were bashful. Some were full of pride. Some of the animals were humble and some of them tried to best all the other animals at everything.


At this particular time rabbit and deer were having a big argument over who was the fastest runner. They had argued for so long and so loudly that the other animals got tired of listening to them. Bear suggested that they have a race and settle the argument once and for all.


"Whoever wins," said Bear, "is the fastest runner of all."


Rabbit shook his head. "Not me," he said. "I must have a prize to look forward to if I win. If I can't win a prize, I will not run."


One of the animals, beaver, began to carve. He carved a beautiful set of antlers. They were the first set of antlers ever seen in the world and all the animals exclaimed at how wonderful an animal would look with the crown of antlers on his head. When Rabbit saw the antlers he agreed right away to run the race. " I wish I had that set of antlers," he thought to himself.


Rabbit said," I am new to these woods. Let me have a look around so I will know the lay of the land before the race." He ran into a thicket and didn't come out. Soon the other animals began to worry. They waited for a long time. One of the animals went into the thicket to look for the rabbit.


The animal soon came out of the thicket. He had an angry look on his face. "That rabbit is cheating!" he said. Rabbit soon came out of the thicket. When he was accused of cheating he shouted and said he would never cheat. "Come on and start the race!" he yelled to the deer. "If you don't hurry and start the race the antlers are mine. Hurry up and start the race!"


The deer stood where he was while the other animals went to look in the thicket. They saw where the rabbit had been cutting a short cut out through all the brush and briars. He certainly had been cheating.


The animals said to the the rabbit, "You would lie and cheat to win the prize of the antlers. The deer was going to run the race fairly. He will have the antlers. As the rabbit ran away in anger, the animals placed the antlers upon the deer's head. They looked beautiful.


Deer still wears his antlers. Once a year they fall off his head to remind him that he did not always have them. He won them through a sense of fair play.