Fallow deer are amongst the prettiest deer to be seen in Europe. Prized for many years as an ornamental species, the fallow deer has a range of coat colors, from red, black and brown to pure white. Adult fallow deer have the same appearance as fawns, with white spots covering their dark chestnut coats. The bucks have impressive beautiful, flattened antlers. Fallow deer have powerful legs, despite them being quite short, and so are extremely fast. The shortness of their legs makes for a very interesting body design overall.
Originally a Eurasian deer species, the Fallow deer is found widely distributed over Europe and a vast part of southeast in western Asia. In addition, there are introduced fallow deer populations in Argentina, Chile, United States, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Fallow deer lives in a range of climates from cool to humid, to warm and dry areas. They prefer a combination of different vegetation types, especially old broad-leaf deciduous forests, with grassy areas here and there, but also occur in mixed forests, subalpine vegetation, broad-leaf forests, grasslands, woodlands, scrublands, low mountains, and savanna.
Habits and lifestyle
Fallow deer are a social species, roaming in groups, which are usually divided into two – females with fawns in one group, and males in another group. Males and females only come together during the breeding season. Throughout the year they may mix freely and socialize in groups in open areas. These deer are mainly active nocturnally, with peak activity periods at dusk and dawn. They tend to lead a shy, withdrawn life in the forests. Deer are generally more alert when in open areas and smaller groups, with the females being usually more alert than the males, especially when their fawns are present.
herd, mob, gang
Diet and nutrition
Fallow deer are polygynous, where an adult male mate with many females in one mating season. Males fight violently and often during the mating season, though injuries are rare. Mating takes place from September to January. Females usually bear a single fawn, following a gestation period that lasts 33 to 35 weeks. Mothers do not rejoin the herd straight after birth. They hide their fawn in dense vegetation and return during the day only to nurse it (for every 4 hours during the first 4 months). The mother begins weaning when her fawn is about 20 days old, continuing until it is about 7 months old. When the fawn is 3 to 4 weeks old, mother and fawn again join a herd of mothers and their young. After about one year, the fawns are independent. Males are sexually mature at 17 months old and females at about 16 months old.
Fallow deer have experienced numerous threats such as intensive hunting, habitat loss and fragmentation, natural predation and competition with livestock.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Fallow deer total population size, but there are estimates for this species in these areas: Rhodes - 400-500 individuals, Turkey – 30 individuals, Iran – 317 individuals, Israel – 250 individuals, UK - 100,000 individuals (according to the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust resource). Currently Fallow deer are classified as least concern (LC) on the list of threatened species but in fact it is already extinct or critically endangered on its native range in Turkey, Middle East and Iran.
Fallow deer affect the plant communities in their habitat through browsing.
Fun facts for kids
- Fallow deer communicate with body language, vocalizations and smells. Vocalizations are of six different types: barking; bleating; peeping by fawns contacting their mothers or in distress; wailing, an intense sound of distress by fawns more than 2 days old; and groaning, made by rutting males.
- Fallow deer have very good vision and can see the tiniest details at great distances.
- The antlers of males can measure as much as 70 cm (27 in) long.
- Velvet deer antler has its name from its covering of soft, fuzzy epidermis.
- A fawn take its first steps before it is thirty minutes old.
- Deer can jump quite high and are also very good swimmers.