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BERLIN - For Baron Eberhard von Gemmingen-Hornberg, it was a trophy hunter's dream come true.
Deep in the Bulgarian countryside last year a single shot from the German aristocrat's rifle brought a giant stag of unprecedented proportions toppling stone dead to the forest floor.
The magnificent beast weighed more than 300kg and bore a huge crown of tree-like antlers on its head made up of no fewer than 37 branches.
The trophy was enough to enable the Baron to claim that he had achieved a new world hunting record.
But yesterday it emerged the trophy was no roaring wild stag but a tame, chocolate-loving red deer raised in an Austrian game reserve and deliberately fed calcium tablets to enhance the growth of its antlers.
"The stag's name was Burlei, he was completely tame and children liked to feed him chocolate," the animal's former owner, Rudolf Pottinger, said.
Pottinger sold Burlei to two game dealers last summer for £13,5000 ($38,678) and within a month the stag was roaming Bulgarian hunting estate forests.
The Baron's triumph was shattered after photographs of Burlei grazing in his former home appeared on the internet.