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HART (Hebr. "ayyal," the female or hind: also "ayyalah" and "ayyelet"):

One of the clean animals enumerated in Deut. xiv. 5 (comp. xii. 15, 22; xv. 22), and among those provided for the table of Solomon (I Kings v. 3 [A. V. iv. 23]). It is certain that one of the Cervidœ is intended by "ayyal," but the particularspecies common in Palestine in Biblical times can not now be determined; the fallow deer (Cervus dama) is still met, though rarely, in the neighborhood of Sidon. The Septuagint renders "ayyal" by ἔλαφος, which would suggest the Cervus elaphus. Some also (comp. Winer, "B. R." s.v. "Hirsch") regard "yaḥmur," mentioned with "ayyal" (A. V. "fallow deer"; R. V. "roebuck"), as a species of hart, perhaps the Cervus platyceros, smaller than the common hart and surpassing it in swiftness. The swiftness and gentleness characteristic of the hart render it an image of agility as well as of feminine grace and tenderness (Gen. xlix. 21; II Sam. xxii. 34; Ps. xviii. 33; Isa. xxxv. 6; Hab. iii. 19; Prov. v. 19; Cant. ii. 17, viii. 14). Its maternal affection is alluded to in Jer. xiv. 8; its timidity in Job xxxix. 1; Ps. xxix. 9; its eager panting for water in Ps. xlii. 1. These frequent references to the qualities and habits of the hart, the localities deriving their names from it (Josh. x. 12, xxi. 24; Judges xii. 12), and the fact that it was used for food, show that it was at one time quite common in Palestine.

In the Talmud "ayyal" ("ayyalah," "ayyalta") and "ẓebi" are used as generic names for the whole deer family. The hart is caught with nets; its skin is used to make parchment (Ket. 103b); its flesh tastes like that of the heifer (Bek. 29b). The male has branched antlers (Ḥul. 59b), adding every year one tine (Yoma 29a); and the frequent shedding of the antlers gave rise to the proverbial expression, "He placed his money upon the horn of a hart," that is, he lost it in a bad enterprise (Ket. 107b). On the difficulties which the female experiences in copulation and in the bearing of young see 'Er. 54b; Bek. 7b; B. B. 16b; Yoma 29a (comp. Aristotle, "On Generation of Animals," v. 2, 3, and Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," x. 63, 83); and on the generation of the "yaḥmurta" (female of the "yaḥmur") see Bek. 7b. The hart is the swiftest of all animals (Ket. 112a), and it is therefore used as an example of alertness in doing the "will of the Father in heaven" (Ab. v. 20). For a hart to cross one's path was considered a bad omen (Sanh. 65a).

Bibliography:
  • Tristram, The Natural History of the Bible, p. 99;
  • Lewysohn, Die Zoologie des Talmuds, p. 111.
E. G. H. I. M. C.
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