Although this word occurs in the English Bible only in the connection FALLOW DEER SEE FALLOW DEER (q.v.), it properly represents several terms in the original, which are variously translated, and which denote widely different members of the antelope and cervic families. SEE CHAMOIS; SEE GOAT; SEE OX; SEE PYGARG; SEE ROE, etc. For the proper deer we find the following variations of the same word ayyal' (אִוָּל, an intensive of אִיַל, q. d. a large ram; Sept. ἔλαφος), the male, always rendered "hart" (q.v.), occurs De 12:15,22; De 14:5; De 15:22; 1Ki 4:23; Ps 42:1; Song 2:9,17; Song 8:14; Isa 35:6; La 1:6: ayyalah/ (אִיָּלָה, Ge 49:21; 2Sa 22:34; Job 39:1; Ps 18:33; Ps 29:9; Song 2:7; Song 3:5; Hab 3:19), or ayye'leth (אִיֶּלֶת, Pr 5:19; Jer 14:5), the female, always rendered "hind" in our version (Sept. στέλεχος). Many recent writers, however, either suppose different species of antelope to be meant, or, with Dr. Shaw, consider the term to be generic for several species of deer taken together. Sir J. G. Wilkinson believes the ayyal to be the Ethiopian oryx, with nearly straight horns. SEE ANTELOPE. It should be observed, however, that an Ethiopian species could not well be meant where the clean animals fit for the food of the Hebrews are indicated, nor where allusion is made to suffering from thirst, and to high and rocky places as the refuge of females, or of both, since all the species of oryx inhabit the open plains, and are not remarkable for their desire of drinking; nor can either of these propensities be properly ascribed to the true antelopes, or gazellae, of Arabia and Syria, all being residents of the plain and the desert; like the oryges, often seen at immense distances from water, and unwilling to venture into forests, where their velocity of flight and delicacy of structure impede and destroy them. Taking the older interpretation, and reviewing all the texts where hart and hind are mentioned, we find none where these objections truly apply. Animals of the stag kind prefer the security of forests, are always most robust in rocky mountain covers, and seek water with considerable anxiety; for of all the light-footed ruminants, they alone protrude the tongue when hard pressed in the chase. Now, comparing these qualities with several texts, we find them perfectly appropriate to the species of these genera alone. Ayyal appears to be a mutation of a common name with ἔλαφος; and although no great stress should be laid on names which, more particularly in early times, were used without much attention to specific identity, yet we find the Chaldee ajal and Sarmatic jelen strictly applied to stag. Hence the difficulty lay in the modern denial that ruminants with branched deciduous horns existed in the south-west of Asia and Egypt; and Cuvier for some time doubted, notwithstanding Virgil's notice, whether they were found in any part of Africa; nevertheless, though not abundant where water is rare, their existence from Morocco to the Nile, and beyond it, cannot be denied; and it is likely that an Asiatic species still appears sometimes in Syria, and, no doubt, was formerly common there (see the Penny Cycloepedia, s.v. Deer).
1. The species usually referred to by the above Heb. terms is probably that now known by the name of Cervus barbarus, or Barbary stag, in size between the red and fallow deer, distinguished by the want of a bisantler, or second branch on the horns, reckoning from below, and by a spotted livery, which is effaced only in the third or fourth year. This species is figured on Egyptian monuments, is still occasionally seen about the natron lakes west of the Nile, and, it seems, has been observed by travelers in the desert east of the Dead Sea, on the route from Cairo towards Damascus. We take this to be the igial or ajal of the Arabs, the same which they accuse of eating fish — that is, the ceps, lizards, and snakes, a propensity common to other species, and similarly ascribed to the Virginian and Mexican deer.
2. Another species is the Persian stag, or maral of the Tahtar nations, and gewazen of Armenia, larger than the stag of Europe, clothed with a heavy mane, and likewise destitute of bisantlers. We believe this species to be the soegur of Asiatic Turkey, and mara of the Arabs, and therefore residing on the borders of the mountain forests of Syria and Palestine. One or both of these species were dedicated to the local bona dea on Mount Libanus — a presumptive proof that deer were found in the vicinity.
Of the hind it is unnecessary to say more than that she is the female of the stag, or hart, and that in the manners of these animals the males are always the last to hurry into cover. SEE STAG.