Medium sized deer (weighing on average between 30-60kg). There are a few colour morphs; “common” (light brown or tan with white spots), “Menil” (similar to common but much paler), “Melanistic” (black to very dark brown with faint spots), and “white” (sandy to completely white with no spots). Males have palmate antlers (palm shaped), and they are the only deer species present in the UK with such antlers.
Distribution: Originally thought to be native to the Middle East, they were introduced to the Mediterranean, and from there they colonised the rest of Europe due to the Roman Empire.
Highly adaptable. Live in deciduous woodland, shrubland, grassland, pasture and agricultural areas.
Herds are small, normally numbering between 10-50 animals. Tend to shelter in woodlands by day and emerge to feed in open areas during the night, but are active throughout the 24 hour period. During the breeding season, called “the rut”, male fallow deer become aggressive and territorial, using their impressive antlers to ward off any rival males.
This rutting season can last from September to November. Females leave the herd to give birth, hiding the fawn somewhere safe. She will only return to the fawn to feed it and the fawn doesn’t join the herd until it is around 4 weeks of age.
Introduced to the UK by the Roman Empire, but again later on by the Normans in the 11th century. Originally they were kept in deer parks for entertainment purposes, however once popularity of the species declined, interest also declined and there were a number of escapees. Although not technically native, they are regarded as naturalised in the UK and are now widespread.
Grass makes up around 60% of their diet. Will eat a variety of plant material such as herbs, trees (including bark), acorns, and fruits.
Historically, hunting and habitat destruction for agriculture threatened populations. However, especially in the UK, there are no major threat to this species.
We are lucky to have two herds of Fallow deer; common and melanistic (black). The black fallow herd are relatively new, arriving in the autumn of 2019, whereas our common fallow herd have been with us years and we have a range of ages in there. Be sure to visit both herds, as despite the stark difference in colour, it is interesting that they are regarded as the same species!
Did you know?
- Fallow deer are the UK’s most common deer species.
- Males are called “bucks” and females are called “does”.
- Only bucks have antlers and they don’t start to develop until they are 2-3 years of age.
- During the rut, bucks have “rutting stands”; a spot where they display and groan and does visit them to mate.