Two of the most common skulls that I find are deer and sheep. There's huge variation in different types of deer and breeds of sheep - but there are some rules which can tell you which are which.
They can look very similar, because they are both herbivores with eyes on the side of their heads. So, I'm going to take you how to tell the difference between the two skulls, even if you only have a small fragment of the skull. In all of this I'm using a red deer skull, as the bigger UK deer (red, sika, fallow) are closer in size to sheep than the smaller deer (such as Chinese Water Deer, muntjac and roe) and fragments can be mistaken for sheep...read on to find out more !
The job becomes easier if you have a sheep skull with horns (horns have hard bits of bones in) or a deer skull with antlers (antlers fall off each year, but the pedicles are part of the skull)
Both have eyes on the side of their heads, to look for predators, but sheep skulls 'bulge' out more and are bigger in proportion to the size of the skull. Deer also have a smoother edge of the eye socket than sheep do.
In front of the eyes
The deer has two big features in front of the eyes, but it varies between species. There is an indentation in front of the eye socket, and an opening (fenestre) above it. Sheep don't have either of these.
Also on the underside...
This is a big difference, but one that most people wouldn't notice. This is the underside of both skulls. Forward of the spine hole, the bone is smooth as it goes towards the nose on the deer. But on the sheep, there are two extra bone growths on each side.
When I was younger, I had a prize "deer skull" fragment which eventually turned out to be a sheep. I hope this stops you making the same mistake !
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