Quick facts

Common name: fallow deer

Scientific name: Dama dama

Family: Cervidae

Habitat: broadleaved woodland, grassland and parkland

Diet: grass, leaves, bark, nuts and berries, fungi

Predators: no natural predators

Origin: non-native

What do fallow deer look like?

Typically, fallow deer have a light chestnut-brown coat with white spots during the summer and a duller grey-brown coat in the winter. However, it is not uncommon to see deer with darker brown and even black fur. Occasionally, some fallow deer are born with white coats.

The species has a white rump with a distinctive black horseshoe outline and white-fringed tail. Fallow deer grow to around 90cm tall. Bucks (male deer) grow distinctive palmate (palm-like) antlers which are shed and regrown yearly, becoming increasingly elaborate over the deer’s life.

Credit: David Foker / WTML

What do fallow deer eat?

Fallow deer graze on grass, herbs and leaves during the summer and eat bark, fungi, nuts and berries during the winter.


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Did you know?

Bucks have pronounced Adam’s apples which move dramatically as they bellow during mating displays.

How do fallow deer breed?

In the wild, fallow deer live in small herds, while park deer gather in larger groups of up to 70 individuals. Outside of the rutting season, which takes place in October, bucks form separate herds away from does (female deer) and young.

During the mating season, bucks establish and maintain ‘rutting stands’ – territories they set out by urinating and marking soil with their hooves and antlers. They thrash foliage with their antlers and call loudly to indicate their prowess and attract as many females as possible to mate with. Bucks fight fiercely over the groups of does they herd onto their territory and will use their antlers to charge and clash with competing males.

After a gestation of around 230 days, adult does give birth to a single fawn in June or July. They are usually able to breed after a year.

Credit: David Kjaer / naturepl.com

Where do fallow deer live?

Fallow deer are widespread across England, Wales, southern Scotland and Ireland. They favour broadleaved woodland, grassland and parkland.

Did you know?

Fallow deer were introduced to Britain for hunting by the Normans 1,000 years ago, and were a favourite quarry of medieval huntsmen.

Signs and spotting tips

Groups of fallow deer can often be spotted in woodland glades and parkland. While they can be sighted throughout the day, the best time to see them is during dusk and dawn, when they are most active.

During the mating season, listen out for the powerful groans of bucks – a sure sign that fallow deer are nearby. Also, keep an eye on the ground for any fallow-deer tracks – they leave large, long hoof prints in soft ground.

Credit: Tony Cox / WTML

Threats and conservation

Fallow deer have no natural predators in the UK. As a result, deer densities can reach extremely high levels. It is thought deer numbers are higher now than at any point in the past 1,000 years - with a potentially negative impact on the environment. Over-grazing can prevent the re-generation of woodland, which has knock-on effects for other species. As a result, some populations are culled to control their spread and reduce damage.