Getting to know the animals at Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo

Petting zoo features deer, camels, and even an emu.

SEVIERVILLE - They left their mainstream jobs to start the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo.

"There doesn't have to be any logic to it," Greg Hoisington said.

That's how he described the decision to open the petting zoo in Sevierville.

"We were in nuclear power. We were both health physics technicians which is basically radiation protection for workers inside the plant," he said.

Back in 1977, he and his wife Lynn took a road trip to the Grand Canyon.

"On the way out there we saw a sign on the side of the road that said deer farm. And I said, deer farm? We used to hunt deer. What's a deer farm? It was a place like this. We just had a really good time and we said, 'You know what, when we get old this is what we're going to do,'" he said.

They didn't wait to get old. They opened it 28 years ago when Greg was in his 40s.

"All babies are cute. I like the babies. Even baby alligators are cute. I like the babies, especially the baby deer," he said.

The reindeer recently added a baby, the first one in several years.

"I'm not the one who names them. I let the guys who work out here name them because they'll watch them and they'll say this one reminds me of... like one of their favorite goats is Earnhardt. It's a fast runner," he explained.

It takes a little while but the babies here figure out how a petting zoo works.

"The first time they take it out of your hand they'll stand there and they will stretch their neck out like a giraffe, staying as far away as they can. But as long as they can reach that food. They'll get it and a light bulb will go on. I can do this," he said.

Visitors feed the deer and their curiosity at the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo.

The petting zoo does include the exotic animals like emus.

"And then we've got some emu which are interesting birds because if you look at their feet they have dinosaur feet, feet just like a Tyrannosaurus Rex," he said.

Watusis, camels, kangaroos, zebras and horses. He enjoys sharing them with the public, especially children.

"Nobody grows up on a farm hardly and a lot of the kids don't know the difference between a chicken and a duck, but they learn," he said.

Hoisington has learned that his deer farm prompts the same response in visitors as that other deer farm gave him so long ago.

"When they leave they are all smiling and happy and they've got all their fingers," he said with a laugh.

The Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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