This backyard deer and dog video was posted on Facebook by Dale Hennessey of Clarksville, Indiana, and then shared with untold numbers of people on the planet (the clip has more than 8 million views as of 2 pm CST on July 2).

Those of us who have decades of whitetail hunting under our belt have seen just about everything when it comes to strange and unpredictable deer behavior, but this one has me scratching my head. Normally, I avoid anthropomorphizing (to ascribe human attributes to animals), so I’m not in the camp that thinks this dog and deer are playing.

Do deer play? Well, I’ve seen fawns behave in such a way that I could understand someone calling it playing, but I like to think such behavior is tied to fawns figuring out the pecking order in a family group.

Do dogs play? Again, my yellow Lab will retrieve a thrown ball or stick and then bring it back to me with his tail wagging wildly, but I hesitate to call it playing. I’m playing, for sure, but my dog is acting on instincts and learned behavior (in my opinion).

Two Possible Explanations

Whatever your opinion on these topics, I offer a couple suggestions for the behavior shown in this video.

Theory No. 1: The deer, which appears to be a doe, is confused that the dog is an orphaned fawn. The size and color of the dog are almost perfect matches for a fawn. Of course, dogs don’t smell like fawns, and fawns don’t bark — at least in my hunting areas — so this explanation is a stretch.

Theory No. 2: The doe has a fawn out of sight back in the thick cover and is protecting it from the dog. Keep in mind that the doe doesn’t know whether the dog has the capability to jump the fence, so she’s simply trying to stay in between the dog and her hidden fawn.

In any case, it’s a fun and interesting clip. Be sure to turn up the volume on the Facebook video to hear the dog’s barking. Share the video with your hunting buddies and compare your thoughts on what’s happening.