The Giant Deer (or 'Irish Elk') lived during the Pleistocene Period of the Great Ice Age. It probably originated in Siberia but migrated westward under the influence of increasing cold. Its range extended over a wide part of central Europe and Asia and the largest concentration of its remains have been found in Ireland, chiefly in the marl underlying bogland. This marl has a high calcium carbonate content, which assists in preserving bones. These ancient antlers, many discovered in caves in Counties Waterford, Cork and Clare, have long been a feature of the Irish banqueting hall. Among the most celebrated examples of the extinct Giant Deer were those displayed at Rathfarnham Castle in the 1580s (A sketch is preserved in the National Museum of Ireland and is illustrated in A. Crookshank and the Knight of Glin, Irish Watercolours, London, 1994, pl. 30).
An early recorded example of the Irish giant deer or 'Elk' antlers, of the type found around Cos. Waterford, Cork and Clare, were those sent in 1597 to Hatfield House, Hertfordshire.
During the l9th century such antiquarian relics joined the sporting trophies as essential features of the baronial hall. Those hung in the new manor at Adare, Co. Limerick were illustrated in a drawing executed in the l850s (see J.Cornforth,'English Interiors' l790-l848, London, l978, fig. 51.)
A related pair of elk antlers, which were given to Sir Robert Peel by the people of Ireland was sold from the Property of The Earl Peel, Christie's London, 6 April 2000, lot 210 (£47,000 inc. premium).