Last Reviewed and Updated on March 2, 2023
Fallow deer are one of the most beautiful woodland animals, from their majestic antlers to their usually rusty brown coats. They are a species of deer that can now be found across many continents. Explore some of the most fun facts about fallow deer and get to know them a little bit better.
About Fallow Deer
Fallow deer (Dama) is a common name for two species of deer. They are medium-sized deer known for their distinctive coat, which can vary in color from white, reddish-brown to black, and is covered in white spots, which are most prominent during the summer months.
The two species are:
- European fallow deer (native to Turkey and near regions)
- Persian fallow deer (native to Israel and Iran)
They have been successfully introduced to other parts of the world (United States, Sweden, South Africa, Australia…)
Fallow deer prefer open woodland habitats, although they can also be found in grasslands and agricultural areas.
They are herbivores and feed on leaves, grasses, and shrubs. During the winter months, when food is scarce, they may also feed on the bark and woody stems.
European fallow deer are classified as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to their wide distribution and redistribution to habitats where they were previously extinct. Persian fallow deer, on the other hand, is endangered.
Interesting Facts About Fallow Deer
Explore some of the interesting facts about fallow deer – from their behavior to their spots.
Love learning about animals? Read our list of the 100 weirdest animal facts.
1. The only visible difference between Persian and European fallow deer is in their antlers
The antlers of Persian fallow deer are less palmated than those of other fallow deer.
Palmated antlers are a type of antler that visually resemble an open palm with fingers extended.
2. Most fallow deer have white spots that are most prominent in summer
Depending on the color of their coat, the white spots are more or less prominent.
Fallow deer that have a chestnut coat have prominent white spots in summer, and their coat is much darker and without spots in the winter.
In menil fallow deer, the spots are present year-round but are less prominent in winter.
Black-coated (melanistic) fallow deer usually don’t have spots. White leucistic (not albino) deer also don’t have spots.
3. Only male fallow deer have antlers
Makes (bucks) have antlers, and females (does) do not have antlers. Adult male deer have palmate antlers. Young males (first two years of life) have an antler that is a single spike.
4. They have a very prominent Adam’s apple
Another distinctive feature of this species is its very prominent Adam’s apple.
5. Fallow deer can jump high
They are able to jump over an average-sized human as they can jump as high as 5 ft 9 in / 1.75 m. Their jumps can be quite long, too, as they can easily make jumps up to 16 ft / 5 m in length.
6. Their mating systems vary depending on location and population sizes
The breeding season of European fallow deer in the Northern Hemisphere mostly occurs in October, and for those in the Southern Hemisphere mostly in April.
The most common mating behavior is lekking, where males gather and engage in courting rituals, and females choose the best partners. But other mating systems occur as well, such as harems, where a group of females has one or two dominant males, and other males are driven away.
7. Both females and males can breed when they are 16 months old, but most males won’t at that time
Both the female and male fallow deer can start successfully reproducing when they reach maturity at 16 months; however, most males won’t breed until they are at least 48 months old.
8. Females tend to their fawns but are separated from them most of the time
Most females give birth to a single fawn, and occasionally a set of twins will be born.
After they give birth, the females stay separated from the herd for at least ten days. The fawn is hidden in the vegetation, and the mother only returns to the fawn to feed it (roughly every 4 hours each day).
9. Antler size matters
Males with larger antler sizes are more likely to mate. This is both due to their better fighting ability and females’ preference for larger antlers.
10. They fight differently if their antlers are damaged
If a fallow deer’s antlers are broken, it may affect its ability to fight during the mating season, so they approach fights with different tactics. They are less likely to fight with high-risk “attacks” (study: Weapon damage is associated with contest dynamics but not mating success in fallow deer).
Dominant males often have damaged antlers.
11. Fallow deer shed their antlers annually
Male fallow deer shed and regrow their antlers annually. They typically shed their antlers in late winter / early spring and regrow them in the summer. During the antler-growing period, the antlers are covered in a layer of skin called velvet, which supplies the antlers with blood and nutrients. Once the antlers have reached their full size, the velvet dries up, and the bucks rub their antlers against trees to remove it. The antlers are then used in displays and battles with other bucks during the mating season.
Generally, the antlers grow larger each year.