The word tsvi (צבי) is traditionally considered to mean "deer". For example, the Hebrew name "Tsvi" has the Yiddish equivalent "Hersh", and "Hirsch" means "deer" in German.

On the other hand, in Israel the word tsvi is used to mean "antelope", while deer are called eyal (איל). (At least, by people who deal with nature and animals.)

Why this discrepancy?

  • The word Tzvi also means "want" as you can see in the last Posuk of the Akdamus of Shavuos. – Gershon Gold Oct 16 '11 at 1:43
  • It also means "Glory". – zaq Oct 24 '12 at 14:12

Common mistake. No deep reason.
b.t.w I think the error is not in Hebrew, but rather in the translation of Hirsh to Tzvi

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    Is this also true of nesher (eagle / vulture)? – Lev Oct 14 '11 at 12:32
  • Yes. Ask any Israeli what a nesher is, and they will tell you its a ugly looking bird that eats dead things :) It's a problem of having limited access to animals in Europe, and aesthetic issues. – avi Oct 14 '11 at 13:29

R. Natan Slifkin discusses this in a number of places. In one such place he writes:

This is no different from how the Rishonim in Ashkenaz mistakenly thought that the tzvi is the deer, and were therefore confounded by the Gemara which states that the horns of a tzvi are not branched. The reason was that that they were unfamiliar with the gazelle, which does not live in Europe, and so transposed the name tzvi to the deer. Only Rav Saadiah Gaon, who was familiar with the animal life of the Middle East, correctly identified the tzvi as the gazelle and the ayal as the deer—and he likewise correctly identifies the shafan as al-wabr.

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The horn of a tzvi is kosher for making a shofar. Deer do not have horns; they have antlers and couldn't possibly be used as a shofar. Therefore a tzvi cannot be a deer.

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    It would be helpful if you made known your source for the horn of a tzvi being kosher for making a shofar – b a Oct 21 '12 at 21:28
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    ...and for your claim that antlers "couldn't possibly be used as a shofar". – msh210 Oct 21 '12 at 22:39
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    ...and for your implied claim that tz'vi meant the same thing at the time the shofar rule's source was written as it did at the time the name was paired with hirsch. Languages change over time. – msh210 Oct 21 '12 at 22:42
  • Not exactly an adequate source, but the first two pages of this slifkin article touches on these issues. zootorah.com/assets/media/essays/ExoticShofars.pdf – ShamanSTK Aug 30 '16 at 19:37

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