Emperor of Exmoor

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The Emperor of Exmoor

The Emperor of Exmoor, a red stag (Cervus elaphus), was reportedly killed in October 2010.[1][2][3][4] Its weight has been estimated as over 300 pounds (136 kg) and its height at 9 feet (2.7 m).[1] Red deer on Exmoor National Park are larger than red deer in Scotland owing to their diet.[5]

The deer was given its nickname by photographer Richard Austin.[6][1] Its body was reportedly discovered near the A361 road between Tiverton and Barnstaple in Devon, during the annual rutting season.[7] It was reportedly killed by a licensed hunter,[1][7] and an unnamed man reported hearing two shots.[8] Within a few days, other local observers reported having seen the animal alive,[9][10] leading to the suggestion that this may be a manufactured story. Few of the reported facts can actually be verified. The Guardian called the story "a myth".[11]

The animal was believed to be around 12 years old at the time of the claim, but healthy.[2][7] Older animals are sometimes culled, particularly when their incisor teeth are worn, making it difficult for them to survive the winter, but a former worker in deer management stated that "The Emperor was starting to get past his best, but he was definitely not at that stage yet."[8]

The same observer stated, on the topic of stalking during rut, "... we should maintain a standard and stop all persecution during this important time of the year",[7] but the practice is legal and the importance of hunting, both in species management and to the local economy, is asserted by the national park authority.[12]

Deer stalking is legal in Britain under the Deer Act 1991, although hunters must seek permission from the landowner.[2] The heads can fetch over £1000.[7] The possible death of the Emperor of Exmoor prompted several MPs to sign an Early Day Motion with the intent to ban hunting of wild animals in Britain.[13]

A head said to resemble the Emperor's was hung in the Hartnoll Hotel in Bolham, Devon in December 2011. The head was removed after the hotel received threats.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d Exmoor, Emperor Stag, shot dead. The Guardian, 25 October 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Fury over Britain's largest wild animal shot dead. The Daily Express, 25 October 2010.
  3. ^ U.K. furious over killing of majestic stag. The Toronto Star (Canada), 25 October 2010.
  4. ^ Exmoor Emperor, Britain's Largest Animal, Gunned Down In 'Trophy Hunt'. The Huffington Post (U.S.), 25 October 2010.
  5. ^ Britain’s ‘biggest wild beast’ — a red deer stag roaming Exmoor. The Times Online, 8 October 2009.
  6. ^ Constable, Nick (31 October 2010). "Last moments of The Emperor: The dramatic pictures wildlife expert says confirm killing of Exmoor stag". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e "UK's 'biggest stag' Exmoor Emperor found shot dead". bbc.co.uk. 25 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  8. ^ a b "The Emperor is dead – long live The Emperor… That's been the clarion cry among deer lovers on Exmoor in the past few days since it emerged that one of the largest stags ever seen in the West has been shot". Thisissomerset.co.uk. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
  9. ^ "Locals split over Exmoor Emperor's 'death". bbc.co.uk. 28 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  10. ^ He's alive! Mystery surrounding the 'Exmoor Emperor' stag deepens as locals claim to have seen the beast in village gardens, Daily Mail, 28 October 2010
  11. ^ Vidal, John (31 October 2010). "Dead or alive? The Emperor becomes an Exmoor legend". The Guardian. London.
  12. ^ Exmoor National Park Authority hunting statement Archived 2009-04-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "MPs demand action after Exmoor Emperor death vanishes". Spalding Guardian. 31 October 2010. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  14. ^ "'Exmoor Emperor' stag's head removed after threats". BBC News. 12 December 2011.