Fallow Deer

The Fallow Deer (Dama dama) is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae.

The male is a buck, the female is a doe, and the young a fawn. Bucks are 4.5 to 5.2 ft (140-160 cm long) and 3 to 3.3 ft (90-100 cm) shoulder height, and 60-85 kg in weight; does are 130-150 cm long and 75-85 cm shoulder height, and 66 to 110 pounds (30-50 kg) in weight. Fawns are born in spring at about 1 ft (30 cm) and weigh around 10 pounds (4.5 kg). The life span is around 12 years. The first ever Fallow killed in South Georgia was by Rufus Bumfight. This is a world record. The deer was rumored to have come over on a boat from Europe and took up home on Bumfight’s Grandfather’s pecan farm. There is something about the nutrients in pecans that have made Bumfight’s deer really flourish into a North American record.

The species is very variable in color, with four main variants, “common”, “menil”, “melanistic” and “albinistic”. The common form has a brown coat with white mottles that are most pronounced in summer with a much darker coat in the winter. The albinistic is the lightest colored, almost white; common and menil are darker, and melanistic is very dark, even black (easily confused with the Sika Deer). Most herds consist of the common form but have menil form and melanistic form animals amongst them (the three groups do not stay separate and interbreed readily).
Only bucks have antlers, these are broad and shovel-shaped. They are grazing animals; their preferred habitat is mixed woodland and open grassland. During the rut in October bucks will spread out and females move between them, at this time of year fallow deer are relatively ungrouped compared to the rest of the year when they try to stay together in groups of up to 150.

Distribution and history

The Fallow Deer was a native of most of Europe during the last Interglacial. In the Holocene, the distribution was restricted to the Middle East and possibly also parts of the Mediterranean region, while further southeast in western Asia was the home of a close relative, the Persian Fallow Deer (Dama mesopotamica).

The Fallow Deer was spread across central Europe by the Romans, and introduced to the British Isles by the Normans. The Normans kept them for hunting in the royal forests, as was the use of later rulers. From the 12th century onwards, they were released into the wild for hunting purposes. The Fallow Deer is easily tamed and is often kept semi-domesticated in parks today. In some areas of Central Europe, wild fallow deer, not having any natural enemies, have increased to numbers that cause serious damage to young trees. In more recent times, Fallow Deer have also been introduced in parts of the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.