Journal of Ethology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 89–96 | Cite as

Variation and social influence of bowing behavior by sika deer (Cervus nippon)

  • Sakurako Akita
  • Yoko Wada
  • Keiji Wada
  • Harumi Torii


Nara Park, Nara Prefecture, Japan is a sightseeing destination in which people have the unique custom of feeding specialized cookies to the park’s free-ranging sika deer, Cervus nippon. Sika deer in Nara Park display a behavior akin to bowing to their human feeders. To characterize this bowing behavior and determine whether it is unique, we conducted feeding experiments with deer cookies on deer populations in Nara Park and Miyajima Island, Hiroshima Prefecture, where cookies are not available. Sika deer in Nara Park bowed more frequently than those on Miyajima Island. Within Nara Park, sika deer in busy areas bowed more frequently than those in quiet areas. These findings imply that bowing behavior has been acquired through encounters with humans. In Nara Park, adult deer showed the greatest number of bows, followed by yearlings and finally fawns. When bowing, up–down movement was relatively more common than slant movement in adults than in yearlings. These findings suggest that sika deer in Nara Park develop bowing behavior with age. Bowing behavior also differed among sexes and postures: more in females than males, and more in standing individuals than those sitting. Young individuals bowed more frequently after demonstrations of bowing behavior by adults than before, suggesting a social influence on this behavior.


Sika deer Cultural behavior Bowing behavior Feeding experiment Social influence 



We are indebted to Prof. Y. Yusa and Dr. H. Sato for their helpful advice and suggestions. Dr. Y. Ihara supported our field study. We are also grateful to members of the Laboratory of Population and Community Ecology, Nara Women’s University for their support and encouragement. Careful reviewing by the two anonymous reviewers and an editor is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sakurako Akita
    • 1
  • Yoko Wada
    • 1
  • Keiji Wada
    • 1
  • Harumi Torii
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological Science, Faculty of ScienceNara Women’s UniversityNaraJapan
  2. 2.Nara University of EducationNaraJapan

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