LONDON (Reuters) - A mythical and ghostly creature has appeared in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands -- and has been caught on camera.
The rare white stag, from the red deer species, is believed to be among just a tiny handful living in Britain, according to a conservation group.
The John Muir Trust is now keeping the stag’s location secret for fear of poachers.
“To see him amongst the other stags was truly thrilling because he does look like a ghost: you do a double-take,” Trust Partnership Manager Fran Lockhart, who filmed the stag, told Reuters.
White stags are seen as a magical and powerful force in many mythologies.
The animal’s ghostly glow comes from a recessive gene which causes leucism, a condition which reduces the normal brown colouring in hair and skin. They are not albinos, which have red eyes due to lack of pigment.
In Celtic traditions, white stags represent messengers from the afterlife. Arthurian legend has it that the creature can never be caught -- King Arthur’s pursuit of the animal represents mankind’s spiritual quest.
It is also said that for those who set eyes on the animal, a momentous moment is near.
“They say their appearance is meant to herald some profound change in life for those who encounter them -- but I am still waiting,” said Lockhart.
Her dog, though, stood transfixed for 45 minutes watching the white stag, instead of his usual scampering around.
Lockhart believes the Scottish Highlands’ white stag is between 6 and 7 years old. She said he is maturing well, with a good set of antlers.
The last official recording of a white red stag in Britain, not to be confused with the more common white fallow deer, was last October when the body of one was found decapitated on the moors between Devon and Cornwall.
Reporting by Georgina Cooper
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.