It was for the purposes of hunting them that Henry VIII first brought red deer to Bushy Park, near Hampton Court Palace in south-west London.
Now, in the throes of a mating season turned unseasonably hot – and with British deer numbers apparently at their highest since the Norman invasion – the animals' violent sexual courtship has started to claim victims from other species. First a swan was set upon. Then last week a woman was attacked and knocked to the ground by a rampaging stag in the Royal Park.
Now a man in his fifties has been tipped on his back by one animal. The "Beast of Bushy" – a rogue stag – is one of about 320 red and fallow deer that inhabit the 1,100-acre park. He controls the largest group – of some 60-odd animals – and has settled in one of the park's busiest areas.
"You see people trying to feed them; going right up to them," said Daniel Tudoriou, 23, who works at an ice-cream stall a few dozen yards from where "the Beast" has installed his harem of females.
A spokesman for the Royal Parks warned: "Deer are wild animals and must be treated with caution.
"Visitors are reminded to keep a respectful distance of at least 50 yards from the creatures."Reuse content