Synopses & Reviews
For one thousand years, the Milu -- an exotic species of deer with the neck of a camel, horns of a stag, feet of a cow, and tail of a donkey -- existed only in the Chinese emperors private park in Beijing. But in the nineteenth century, a Basque missionary risked his life to obtain a specimen, then embalmed it and sent it to Paris.
The preserved remains caused quite a stir, and soon every major nation in Europe possessed a Milu. But most died quickly, and due to war -- most notably the Boxer Rebellion -- they became extinct in their native habitat as well. Yet the eleventh duke of Bedford was devoted to preserving the Milu. Under his care at Woburn Abbey, a herd flourished, and nearly a century later, in 1986, part of the British herd was returned to China.
In his fascinating tale, Robert Twigger poignantly recounts the story of this strange and rare animal while providing a riveting meditation on evolution, truth-telling, extinction, myth-making, and survival.
For 1,000 years the exotic Milu belonged solely to the Chinese emperor in Beijing. But in the late 19th century, a Basque missionary became the first Westerner to have contact with them. Eventually, he shipped the remains of a Milu to Paris where it became an instant sensation. Soon every major European nation had acquired one. Most died quickly, however, and due to war, the Milu became extinct in its native habitat as well. Yet the deer did survive in one place: Bedfordshire, England, thanks to the ministrations of a devoted caretaker, the 11th Duke of Bedford. Today, the rich can hunt Milu in wild game reserves around the world -- most notably in Texas.
In this wonderful tale of nature, civilization, and history, Twigger poignantly brings to life this strange and rare animal while telling the story of humanity and its obsessions and desires as well.
About the Author
Robert Twigger, the author of Angry White Pyjamas and Big Snake, was born in 1964 and educated at Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Poetry Prize. In 1991 he went to Japan, studied traditional martial arts, and completed the course for the Tokyo riot police. In 1996 Twigger trained as a bullfighter in Spain, went looking for bona fide zombies in Haiti, and reported for the Daily Telegraph on chain gangs in Arizona. In 1997 he spent four months in Indonesia, attempting to capture the longest snake in the world. After many setbacks and adventures, his team succeeded in capturing a python twenty-six feet long -- almost certainly a world record for a snake currently in captivity. In addition to writing books, he is a regular contributor to Esquire, Maxim, the Daily Telegraph, and the Financial Times. He lives in London.