Deer

Deer are even-toed hoofed ungulates that are found worldwide. They are similar in appearance to antelopes.  However, the two differ in the permanence of their horns. Deer have antlers, which are shed once a year, after which they grow back, while antelopes have permanent horns.

Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Artiodactyla

Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Artiodactyla

The deer has had a huge cultural impact on history, playing a key role in literature, mythology, and heraldry. They also have economic value, being hunted both for their meat, called venison, and for sport.

List of the Common Types of Deer Species

There are many species of deer found in five continents, like the Reindeer in North America, the roe deer in Europe, the chital in Asia, the Barbary Stag in Africa, and the White-Tailed deer in South America.

  • Reindeer
  • Moose
  • Roe Deer
  • Barasingha Deer
  • Axis Deer
  • Caribou
  • Red Deer
  • White-Tailed Deer
  • Chital Deer
  • Elk
  • Mule Deer
  • Muntjac Deer
  • European Fallow Deer
  • Sambar Deer
  • Sika Deer
  • Bawean Deer
  • Calamian Deer
  • Bornean Yellow Muntjac Deer
  • Brocket Deer
  • Eld’s Deer
  • Chinese Water Deer
  • Indian Hog Deer
  • Fea’s Muntjac Deer
  • Indian Muntjac Deer
  • Marsh Deer
  • Pere David Deer
  • Pampas Deer
  • Persian Fallow Deer
  • Red Deer
  • Philippine Deer
  • Philippine Spotted Deer
  • Reaves Muntjac
  • Rusa Deer
  • Barbary Stag
  • South Andean Deer
  • Northern Pudu Deer
  • Southern Pudu Deer
  • Taruca Deer
  • Tufted Deer
  • White Lipped Deer

Deer

Physical Description and Appearance

Size: Length: 12.5 in – 8 ft 6 in (32 cm – 2.6 m)

Weight:  7 1⁄4 – 1800 lbs. (3.3 – 800 kg)

The smallest known species is the northern Pudu at 12 1⁄2–14 in (32–35 cm), and 714–1314 lbs. (3.3–6 kg), and the largest is the moose at 8 ft 6 in (2.6 m) and 1800 lbs. (800 kg).

Antlers: Primarily, males are the only ones with antlers, though high testosterone levels may lead to certain females growing them. Only in reindeer do both sexes regularly grow antlers.

They develop as velvet structures and become stiff and bony eventually. After the mating season, deer begin to shed their antlers. The process takes place around December-January and can last for 2-3 weeks.

Teeth: Deer have a set of 32 teeth, except for the elk and reindeer, which have 34. Their teeth are developed to chew vegetation, having a powerful pad instead of upper incisors. Some of them, like the water deer and the muntjac, have enlarged upper canines.

Body and Coloration: Males are generally larger than females. Deer have long, slender legs and eyes with dilating pupils. The coat color ranges from red to brown, though some have a grayish tone like the elk.  Certain species, like the chital and the fallow deer, have white spots over their brown coats.

Deers

Distribution

Deer are common throughout the world except in Australia and Antarctica. The largest concentration of deer population is in the northern part of North America, including the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the Columbia Mountains. Other notable regions include the Arctic tundra, the Atlas mountains in the north of Africa, Asia Minor, the Caucasus Mountains, India’s Indo-Gangetic Plain Region, and Nepal’s Terai Region.

Habitat

Though commonly associated with dense forests, deer are very adaptable and thrive in various habitats. These include mountain slopes (white-tailed deer and moose), tropical savanna (Eld’s deer), tundra (Caribou and elk), and wetlands (Sambar deer).

Deer Images

How long do they live

On average, males live for 3 years while females live longer at 6-7 years.

What do they eat

As browsing mammals, deer primarily feed on a diet of grasses, forbs, lichens, sedges, shrubs, and trees. Occasionally, on venturing into human habitations, they will eat food like hydrangeas, pumpkins, and roses.

They will try to increase their calorie intake during the winter by eating fruits and nuts.

Deer Pictures

Behavior

  • The deer is not nocturnal but, in fact, crepuscular, being most active at dusk and dawn.
  • They maintain a social hierarchy based on the size of their antlers, with those with the larger antlers being more dominant.
  • Deer tend to live in herds, though the composition varies from species to species. For example, the white-tailed deer forms two types of herds, one consisting of does and their fawns and the other made up of 3-5 bucks.
  • These animals tend not to be aggressive by nature, fleeing if encountering other animals or humans. However, when confronted or during the mating season, they may react violently.
  • They are excellent jumpers and swimmers.
  • Verbal communication consists of bleating, grunting,  mewling, and snorting. This is done to warn of danger and establish dominance. They also communicate non-verbally by moving certain parts of their body like ears, head, hooves, and tail.
Male Deer

Predators

Many predators hunt and consume deer as part of their diet. Some of them are alligators, bears, birds of prey, coyotes, hogs, lynxes, mountain lions, wolverines, and wolves.

Adaptations

  • Their antlers have several uses, such as protection against predation, assistance in fending off other males during mating season, and determination of social status.
  • Like other ruminating animals, deer have four-chambered stomachs to help them digest roughage.
  • They have keen senses, especially a sharp sense of sight and smell, allowing them to detect incoming threats.
  • Some of them, especially those that live in harsh cold regions, have a layer of dense fur for insulation.
  • Deer have powerful legs allowing them to run fast, jump, and swim.
  • They have a gland near the eye which secretes a pheromone, allowing them to mark their territory.
  • A tissue layer called the tapetum lucidum is present over their eyes, giving them night vision.
Deer Eyes

How do they reproduce

Their mating season starts in August and continues to December. After a gestation period of 200-205 days, does give birth to one or two fawns.

Life Cycle

Fawns are raised by their mothers, with no input from their fathers. The doe and her child stay together for a year, during which she nurses the fawns and keeps them clean to disguise their scent from predators.

Baby Deer

For about a week after its birth, the fawns can start keeping up with their mothers as they graze. Before that, they remain hidden in the grass. Once old enough, the fawns will leave their mother, with the males never returning. The females may sometimes return with their own fawns to form a small herd.

Male deer reach sexual maturity at the age of two years while females do so much quicker, at about seven months.

Female Deer

Conservation

As per the IUCN, no species of deer is endangered presently.

Deer have adapted well to human intrusion into their habitats, and most species are not in danger of extinction. But issues caused by climate change, such as loss of habitat, can lead to problems further down the line.

Deer – FAQs

1. Do deer move in the rain?

Yes, deer remain active even in rainy periods lasting for several days.

2. What is a baby deer called?

A baby deer is called a fawn.

3. Where do deer sleep?

Deer will sleep in large fields with plenty of foliage to hide them. They normally will change their bedding spots to avoid predators, however a  safe spot will be reused multiple times.

4. Are deer color blind?

Yes, they are unable to see the red-green color spectrum. Their vision remains confined to colors of short and medium wavelengths like blue and green.

5. What is a group of deer called?

A group of deer is a herd. They are also referred to as a bunch, a group, a mob, a parcel, or a rangale.

6. Do deer eat meat?

Surprisingly, deer do occasionally eat meat if the opportunity arises, but only if they can chew on them.

7. How fast do deer run?

They are very agile creatures, reaching  35-40 miles per hour (56-64 km/h).

8. What is the difference between reindeer and deer?

While reindeer are a species of deer, they have a few characteristics that set them apart. Reindeer are adapted to far colder climates than most other deer. Also, both male and female reindeer grow antlers.

Deer Antlers

Interesting Facts

  • From prehistoric times to the present day, deer have been hunted as food.
  • A male deer or stag often served as a symbol for a coat of arms for many European royals, such as those of the Aland islands in Finland and Raon-aux-Bois in France.
  • Deer have played a major role in several myths and stories. For instance, in the epic Ramayana, a demon takes the form of a golden deer. Similarly, deer appear prominently in the Disney animated movie Bambi and the C.S.Lewis penned Narnia series.
  • Deer symbolizes kindness, gentleness, innocence, devotion, intuition, and good luck.