Albino Deer: How Common Are White Deer?

Albino White-tailed deer (odocoileus virginianus) standing in a Wausau, Wisconsin field
© iStock.com/Michael-Tatman

Written by Jeremiah Wright

Updated: January 24, 2023

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Did you know that deer can be albinos, too? But is this a common condition in deer? How long can they live in the wild with such a distinctive appearance? And, most importantly, should hunters shoot a white deer if they spot one? Check out this article to find all the answers!

What Is Albinism?

Albino ferret

Albinism is a condition caused by the congenital absence of melanin, and its carrier has white hair, scales, or feathers.

©Couperfield/Shutterstock.com

Albinism is a condition caused by the congenital absence of melanin, and its carrier has white hair, scales, or feathers. Moreover, the animal has either blue or pink eyes. This condition may shorten the animal’s lifespan because it isn’t protected from predators and UV radiation. Albino alligators, for instance, are believed to live only 24 hours.

This condition is extremely common in birds, amphibians, and reptiles. It’s rarer in mammals.

Animals born with albinism should have two albino parents. That’s because albinism’s genetic traits are recessive and are hidden if paired with strong traits.

Unfortunately, albinism comes with other issues caused by the lack of melanin. These include abnormal eye development and appearance, reduced protection from sunlight, survival disadvantages caused by lack of camouflage, reduced viability, and hearing disorders.

Some studies showed that several albinos had been spotted in the following populations:

  • Deer
  • Tigers
  • Lesser mouse-tailed bat
  • Chital
  • Five-striped palm squirrel
  • Wild boar
  • Northern palm squirrel
  • Common palm civet
  • Macaque
  • Jungle cats
  • Jackals
  • Prairie voles
  • Echidnas
  • Kangaroos
  • Koalas
  • Wallabies
  • Possums
  • Wombats

What Do Albino Deer Look Like, and How Rare Are They?

Albino white deer

Albino deer have white hair, pink eyes, hooves, and noses.

©iStock.com/giannimarchetti

Like other albino animals, albino deer have white hair, pink eyes, hooves, and noses. Compared to piebald deer, which may be almost completely white but still have some brown patches, albinos are pure white.

Moreover, besides their unique color, these deer may carry other noticeable health issues caused by a lack of melanin. They may have arched spines, shortened jaws and legs, and deformed hooves. Albino deer may have severe vision deficiencies.

All these traits make albino deer extremely vulnerable to predators. First, they’re extremely easy to spot. Second, the other health conditions they may be born with make it difficult for them to escape danger. Third, their herds often abandon albino deer because they put others in danger. So to say that albino deer are rare is an overstatement. They are extremely rare, even rarer than piebald deer!

How Rare Is It To See an Albino Deer?

Since albino deer are very rare in the wild, the chances you’ll spot one in your lifetime are very low. According to some, the chances of a deer being born albino are one in 20,000. And even if the deer is born all white, it’s highly unlikely it will survive in the wild and reach an old age, which further minimizes your chances of spotting one.

What Does It Mean if You See a White Deer?

Albino White-tailed deer (odocoileus virginianus) standing in a Wausau, Wisconsin field

In Asian cultures, spotting a white deer symbolizes prosperity and longevity.

©iStock.com/Michael-Tatman

White deer have been around for thousands of years and have even shaped people’s destinies! In the past, they have been important symbols in many cultures around the world and have helped spread some beliefs.

In European cultures, people believed that the white color of a deer stands as a symbol of humanity’s spiritual quest and that the deer itself “hosts” the world’s spiritual knowledge. In Celtic culture, white deer are seen as spiritual guides who help people reach their goals.

In Asian cultures, spotting a white deer symbolizes prosperity and longevity.

The Chickasaw tribe considered white deer sacred symbols. Why? Because of a legend involving a young warrior who tried to kill a white deer. However, he couldn’t do so because the deer took his soul. Furthermore, some Native American cultures believed that albino deer represented prophecy and impending change. 

Other beliefs evolving around seeing an albino deer include that it indicates soul purity, as well as attaining higher knowledge, thoughts, and ideals.

Furthermore, spotting an albino deer may point to different things depending on whether the deer is a doe or a buck. If it’s a buck, the event points to endurance, longevity, and abundance. If it’s a doe, it symbolizes spirituality, kindness, and benevolence.

Should You Shoot an Albino Deer?

The answer to this question depends on what you believe in and the restrictions of the area you’re hunting in. Many hunters believe that shooting an albino deer may put it out of its misery since its life is most probably a great struggle because of the health issues albinism comes with. However, the albino deer’s spiritual meaning may stop hunters from killing them, as they are sacred animals, and killing them would bring misfortune.

Albino Deer vs. Melanistic Deer

Distinguishing between an albino and a melanistic deer isn’t difficult at all. While albino deer are completely white, melanistic deer have very dark hair, sometimes even black. Moreover, they do not have pink eyes and aren’t as prone to falling prey as albino deer are. Anyhow, the chances of seeing these two together are one in a million, so if you do happen to spot them, consider yourself infinitely lucky!

Albino Deer vs. Piebald Deer

Piebald Deer

Piebald deer are deer with white spots on a pigmented background.

©iStock.com/Brittany Crossman

Albino deer and piebald deer may actually look similar if piebald deer have a few brown patches. In short, piebaldism is a condition that causes deer to have white patches on their hair or be almost completely white with some brown spots. This pattern is unique to each individual. The easiest way to distinguish between them is by the albino deer’s pink eyes and nose – that is, if you compare an albino deer to an almost white piebald deer!

Other Rare Deer Species

Although we don’t know how many albino deer are in the wild, we can easily compare them to one of the rarest deer species in the world, the Visayan spotted deer. There are currently only around 300 Visayan spotted deer worldwide; fortunately, they are all under human supervision. Another rare deer species is the key deer, which consists of roughly 800 individuals living in the Florida Keys. 

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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