The village of Cerne Abbas is so-called because of the monastery on its north side. The ‘abbas’ were the monks. The monastery was founded in 987 and was probably more or less self-sufficient in many ways. The old Abbey Deerpark to the west of Cerne Abbas, opposite the Giant, was part of this as it provided meat.
There are three species of deer in the Upcerne and Minterne valleys. These valleys currently combine to harbour as many as 150 Roe Deer, about 100 Fallow Deer and a significantly fewer number of Sika Deer.
Each type of deer must be carefully protected and managed in order to keep the herd healthy and the numbers stable. If the numbers grow too large then there is a scarcity of food which is detrimental to the deer, and the deer damage young trees and the surrounding crops especially cereals.
Each year, during specific periods which avoid the breeding season, expert marksmen cull the older females and the oldest males. This keeps the breeding population of the deer young and vigorous so that they produce healthier fawns, and are able to care for them better.
Deer are a valuable crop of the valley for their delicious rich meat and also for stalkers, especially from overseas, who value the opportunity at appropriate times of the year to stalk and shoot bucks and stags. Sadly they are also prey to poachers with dogs who come to kill by night and are difficult to prevent.
If you are interested in the history of the Deer Park there are some interesting resources here.