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Fallow Deer

Latin Name: Dama dama

The fallow deer found in Britain were introduced by the Normans and since have become the most widespread species of deer in Britain today. During the Mediaeval times many deer parks were established using fallow deer, they were prized as an ornamental species and were protected in Royal Hunting "Forests" for royal sport. It is the escapees from these parks that have given rise to the free-living populations in Britain today.

Their propensity for reaching very high local densities can result in high local levels of damage, and many country and forest estates can gain substantial revenue from recreational stalking and/or venison production. They browse tree shoots and agricultural crops and this puts them in conflict with farmers and foresters due to the potential economic damage.

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Fallow deer are also farmed for their venison and are one of the most important ornamental park species in the UK. Whether in conflict or used as a resource, fallow deer populations require careful management to maintain health and quality and ensure a sustainable balance with their environment.


Intermediate in size between roe and red deer. They have many colour varieties but are typically fawn coloured in summer and reddish-brown in winter. The common variety is the familiar tan/fawn colour with white spotting (which disappear in the winter when their coat becomes long and grey) on the flanks and white rump patch outlined with characteristic black horse-shoe. They have yellow-white undersides and a black line that runs along the back to the tip of the tail.

There are other variations in coat such as a long-haired version found in Mortimer Forest, Shropshire,  the Menil variety is paler, lacks the black bordered rump and keeps its white spots all year, while the black variety is almost entirely black with no white coloration anywhere. Finally, the white variety can be white to sandy coloured and becomes more white at adulthood. This is a true colour variety and not albinism, which is rare.

Antlers. The fallow is the only British deer with palmate (flattened) antlers, broad and shovel shaped which appear on adult males (>3 years), and increase in size with age, up to 70cm long.

Animal Facts

In Britain: All year

Life Span: Exceptionally, 16 years, bucks (males) rarely exceed 8 to 10 years.

Statistics: Bucks (males): 84-100cm at shoulder, and weigh 46-94kg. Does (females): 73-91cm at shoulder, and weigh 35-56kg.

Habitat: Mature broadleaf woodland with under-storey, open coniferous woodland, open agricultural land.

Food: Preferential grazers of grasses, herbs, berries, acorns and bark and trees and dwarf shrub shoots will be taken during autumn and winter.

Breeding: Adult Does give birth to a single fawn in June after a gestation of 229 days. The Doe will find a hiding place to give birth and the fawn will remain here with the Doe returning every four hours to feed until it is about 4 months old. The fawn is weaned after 7-9 months.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Distribution: Non-native but considered naturalised. Widespread in England and Wales, patchy in Scotland. Locally abundant and increasing. Native in Mediterranean region of Europe and can be found from Turkey to Iran, but have also been introduced to 38 countries.

Behaviour: Group sizes as well as the degree of sexual segregation varies according to population density and habitat. They gather in herds of 4-5 routinely although in good feeding areas can be seen in groups of 70-100. These small groups of adult males and females, usually with young, remain apart for most of the year in large woodlands, only coming together to breed. They are active throughout the 24-hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness. Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk. Most hours of the day time are spent "lying up", which is where the deer lies down to ruminate between feeding bouts.

The rut. Takes place between October and November and their behaviour is dependent upon the environment and population density. In most populations bucks maintain a traditional, defended rutting stand. In others a temporary rutting stand is maintained to attract sufficient does to herd them into a harem. During the rut bucks groan tremendously, thrash their antlers and parallel walk their opponents. Fighting occurs when both stags are evenly matched and takes the form of wrestling and clashing of their antlers. When alarmed Does with fawns give a short bark.

Conservation Status: The Persian fallow deer is classified as Endangered, but other subspecies are not considered at threat.


See Also

Deer Topic Index

Wikipedia - Fallow Deer

Where to Photograph Deer in the UK 

Photographing deer

British Deer Society

Deer Commission for Scotland


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By: Tracey Park Section: Wildlife Key:
Page Ref: fallow_deer Topic: Deer Last Updated: 03/2010

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