Fallow Deer

These deer are not native to Europe, but have been introduced here down the centuries. They naturally live in woodland, but also thrive in parkland areas.

Fallow deer are easily distinguishable from other species of European deer by their somewhat flattened antlers and spotted summer coats. In some places fallow deer live alone, while in others they come together to form small herds of up to 30 individuals.

The autumn mating period, called the rut, sees these deer becoming particularly active and vocal, with females uttering barks of alarm, while stags grunt as a way of intimidating would-be rivals. After giving birth, the hind will feed her fawn every four hours for a period of about four months, then mother and offspring rejoin the herd permanently.

The breeding behaviour of this species is variable, and may depend on the way food is distributed. In some places males come together and attempt to attract females with dance-like rituals and bellowing, a behaviour known as a rut. In other places, males attempt to monopolize a group of females by defending good feeding areas from other males.

Only the male fallow deer sport antlers, which can span 80 cm (32 in) from tip to tip. Adults shed and re-grow their antlers every year.

The adaptability of the fallow deer is such that it has now become established in some 38 countries, including the USA. Fallow deer have been introduced to many new places, but their original populations are falling because of hunting and climate change.

Distribution: Originally native to North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor and the Balkans. Introduced to Britain by the Normans, this species now occurs widely throughout Europe.

Habitat: Open woodland, grassland and shrubland.

Food: Herbivorous, grazing on grass and also browsing on taller plants.

Weight: 25 – 130 kg (55 – 287 lb).

Length: 154 – 215cm (60 – 85 in), including tail; up to 110 cm (42 in) tall.

Maturity: Females at 16 months; males at 17 months.

Breeding: A single fawn born annually.

Gestation Period: About 230 days; weaning occurs 8 months later.

Life span: Up to 8 years in the wild; up to 20 years in captivity.

Status: Common, but rare in its original range.

Antlers

The antlers are described as ‘palmate’, because of their shape like a hand with the fingers extended. They can be over 70 cm (28 in) long.

Size

Bucks are larger than hinds in terms of their overall size.

Spotting

Some individuals have more pronounced spotting than normal, combined with a darker brown coat.

INCREASING MATURITY

Bucks shed their antlers in spring. By late summer they have been replaced by a more impressive set, reflecting the increasing maturity of the deer.

ON THE DEFENSIVE

A hind defends her fawn against a fox. Fawns normally stay hidden in grass until they are about three weeks old.

Gallery of Fallow Deer