Also known as Cerynitis, the Ceryneian Hind was a large deer that dwelled in Greece. It was a sacred beast to Artemis , the goddess of the hunt, animals and unwed women. The deer was a swift creature with the ability to outrun an arrow in flight. Other features of the animals were that it had golden antlers like a stag and hooves made out of bronze or brass.
The Third Labor of Heracles
Capturing of the hind was one of the 12 tasks placed before Heracles. After the hero was successful in escaping from the grips of the Nemean Lion and the Lernaean Hydra, Hera and Eurystheus were not pleased. They wanted to make sure the third task was something that Heracles would not be able to complete. Killing a difficult and fearless beast proved no match for Heracles, so Eurystheus believed that having to catch something extremely fast would be hard for the hero to accomplish.
It would take a full year before Heracles would catch the deer. In the early stages of his task, Heracles awoke from a slumber to see the hind, as its antlers shined in the distance. While on foot, he chased the deer through Greece and other locations, such as Thrace. There are varying versions as to how Heracles bested the hind. Some versions say that he captured the deer while it was asleep , using a trap net to make the creature lame. Others say that the deer was caught with an arrow between the forelegs. Another account says that Artemis met with Heracles and told him to leave the hind alone and to tell Eurystheus her wishes to save the deer, and that his labor would be considered complete.
Eurystheus wanted to have as many gods and goddesses on his side, making the labors of Heracles even more difficult to accomplish. He hoped to place the hero in bad favor with Artemis for threatening her sacred animal. It is said that when Heracles was returning with the hind, he crossed paths with Artemis and her brother Apollo. Begging the goddess to forgive him, he explained why he had to catch the deer, and that he promised to return the creature. Artemis was forgiving and Eurystheus’ plan was a bust.
When Heracles brought the hind to Eurystheus, the king told him that he planned to keep the deer as part of his collection. This would break the promise that Heracles made with the goddess, so he agreed to hand over the creature if Eurystheus himself came out and retrieved the creature. When Eurystheus came for the creature, Herecles let go of the deer, but it sprinted away to the safety of Artemis. Heracles simply told the king that he was too slow in taking hold of the deer. This angered the king greatly, which prompted him to send Heracles on another adventure to capture a terrifying beast that he wanted brought back alive.
Herecles’ fourth labor was to bring back the Erymanthian Boar , a giant creature with connection once again to the goddess Artemis.