Two subspecies of fallow deer are distinguished: Dama dama dama (European fallow deer) and Dama dama mesopotamica (Persian fallow deer).
The body mass of free-ranging adult males is from 46 to 80 kg with an average of 67 kg, and the mass of adult females is from 30 to 50 kg with an average of 44 kg. The head and body length is 1.3 to 1.75 meters, tail length is 150 to 230 mm, and the shoulder height of males is generally 0.9 to 1.0 meters with the females slightly smaller. The forelegs of Dama dama are usually shorter than the hind legs; as a result, the line of the back is elevated posteriorly. The "Adam's apple" (larynx) is prominent in males.
Palmate, multi-point antlers, usually found only in males, also distinguish Dama dama from all other deer. They range in length from 50 to 70 cm. The antlers are usually shed annually in April and the new ones are regrown and free of velvet by August, until the fifth or sixth year. Females are generally without antlers.
Dama dama have the most variable pelage coloration (white, menil, common, and black) of any species of deer. Typically, the pelage is darker on the dorsal surface of the body and lighter on the ventral surface, chest, and lower legs. Their summer coat is pale brown, smooth, and thin while their winter coat is dark brown and rougher with a heavy undercoat. As a rule, there are visible white spots on the back and flank, less on the neck, and none on the head or legs. In general, the darker the coat, the less striking the spots. A black stripe runs dorsally along the nape of the neck to the tip of the tail. (Feldhamer et al. 1998; Grizmek 1990; Nowak 1999).
Range mass: 30 to 80 kg.
Range length: 1.3 to 1.75 m.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Maximum longevity: 21.1 years (captivity) Observations: Males attain full size at 5-9 years of age and females at 4-6 years of age (Ronald Nowak 1999). In the wild, it is estimated that these animals live up to 25 years (Bernhard Grzimek 1990), which is doubtful. Record longevity in captivity is 21.1 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
In Europe fallow deer are the best known and most widespread "park game". Fallow deer are also maintained in captivity for their antler velvet or for commercial production of meat. Since they are easy to breed, they are present in almost all of the larger zoos. In addition, fallow deer are raised on large, fenced, unfertile meadows as domestic animals. (Grizmek 1990; Nowak 1999).
Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material; ecotourism
During the breeding period, or rut, males spend most of their time establishing their territory (rut stand) by pawing the ground to create scrapes where they may urinate, thrashing understory vegetation with their antlers, and by producing low-pitched groans and grunts. At the onset of the rut, since deer are polygynous, the females also appear at the rut stand. Males may stop feeding at this time. Many subordinate males unable to establish territories remain around the edges of the herd, but they are chased away by the rutting male if they enter the territory.
Mating occurs during the rut. Males fight often and violently during the mating season but injuries are rare; their fights involve a ritual shoving with the antlers that follow fixed rules. When mating, the male approaches the female many times, sniffing and licking her genital areas in order to determine if she is in estrous. The female responds with a high-pitched whine and moves away. Eventually the female allows the male to mount.
Mating System: polygynous
Fallow deer have a breeding season of approximately 135 days, generally between the months of September and January in the Northern Hemisphere. The highest percent of fertilization occurs in late October. Males are capable of breeding at the age of 17 months but do not generally breed until the age of four years unless they live in heavily hunted populations. Females generally conceive for the first time around 16 months of age. The length of the estrous cycle for females is approximately 24 to 26 days. Females are polyestrous and may cycle up to seven times in one breeding season, but they usually conceive during their first cycle. Dama dama usually give birth to one fawn after a gestation period of 33 to 35 weeks. The majority of fawns in the Northern Hemisphere are born in early June. Their weight at birth is generally 2 to 4 kg. Full size is attained between 4 to 6 years in females and 5 to 9 years in males.
Breeding interval: Fallow deer breed once yearly.
Breeding season: Mating occurs between September and January.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 231 to 245 days.
Average time to independence: 12 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 16 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 17 (low) months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 48 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) Sex: female: 487 days.
Females often become secretive and try to find hiding places prior to giving birth. The female usually gives birth during the daily period of least activity. The mother-fawn bond is established immediately after birth when she licks it clean. The mother does not rejoin the herd immediately after birth. The mother hides the fawn in dense bushes and only returns to nurse it (every 4 hours for the first 4 months) during the day. Rumination in the fawn does not begin until 2 to 3 weeks of age. The mother begins weaning the fawn when it is around 20 days old but weaning continues until the fawn is around 7 months old. After 3 to 4 weeks the mother and fawn rejoin a herd of females and their young. After approximately one year, the young are independent.
Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care
1990. Grizmek's Encyclopedia of Mammals Vol. 5. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co..
Feldhamer, G., K. Farris-Renner, C. Barker. Dec. 27, 1988. Mammalian Species No. 317, pp. 1-8. The American Society of Mammalogists.
Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition, Volume II. Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
The male fallow deer is known as a buck, the female is a doe, and the young a fawn. Adult bucks are 140–160 cm (55–63 in) long with a 85–95 cm (33–37 in) shoulder height, and typically 60–100 kg (130–220 lb) in weight; does are 130–150 cm (51–59 in) long with a 75–85 cm (30–33 in) shoulder height, and 30–50 kg (66–110 lb) in weight. The largest bucks may measure 190 cm (75 in) long and weigh 150 kg (330 lb). Fawns are born in spring at about 30 cm (12 in) and weigh around 4.5 kg (9.9 lb). The life span is around 12–16 years.
There is much variation in the coat colour of the species, with four main variants: "common", "menil", melanistic and leucistic – a genuine colour variety, not albinistic. The white is the lightest coloured, almost white; common and menil are darker, and melanistic is very dark, sometimes even black (easily confused with the sika deer).
Common: Chestnut coat with white mottles that are most pronounced in summer with a much darker, unspotted coat in the winter. Light-coloured area around the tail, edged with black. Tail is light with a black stripe.
Menil: Spots more distinct than common in summer and no black around the rump patch or on the tail. In winter, spots still clear on a darker brown coat.
Melanistic (black): All year black shading to greyish-brown. No light-coloured tail patch or spots.
Leucistic (white, but not albino): Fawns cream-coloured, adults become pure white, especially in winter. Dark eyes and nose, no spots.
Most herds consist of the common coat variation, yet it is not rare to see animals of the menil coat variation. The Melanistic variation is generally rarer and white very much rarer still, although wild New Zealand herds often have a high melanistic percentage.
Only bucks have antlers, which are broad and shovel-shaped (palmate) from three years. In the first two years the antler is a single spike. They are grazing animals; their preferred habitat is mixed woodland and open grassland. During the rut 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.
Agile and fast in case of danger, fallow deer can run up to a maximum speed of 30 mph (48 km/h) over short distances (being naturally less muscular than other cervids such as roe deer, they are not as fast). Fallow deer can also make jumps up to 1.75 metres high and up to 5 metres in length.
The fallow deer is a Eurasian deer that was a native to 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 the Persian fallow deer, that is bigger and has larger antlers. In the Levant, fallow deer were an important source of meat in the PalaeolithicKebaran-culture (17000–10000 BC), as is shown by animal bones from sites in northern Israel, but the numbers decreased in the following epi-PalaeolithicNatufian culture (10000–8500 BC), perhaps because of increased aridity and the decrease of wooded areas.
The fallow deer was spread across central Europe by the Romans. Until recently it was thought that the Normans introduced them to Great Britain and to Ireland for hunting in the royal forests. However recent finds at Fishbourne Roman Palace show that fallow deer were introduced into southern England in the 1st century AD. It is not known whether these escaped to form a feral colony, or whether they died out and were reintroduced by the Normans.
Fallow deer are now widespread on the UK mainland and are present in most of England and Wales below a line drawn from the Wash to the Mersey. There have been long standing populations in the New Forest and the Forest of Dean and many of the other populations originated from park escapees. They are not quite so widespread in the northern parts of England but are present in most lowland areas and also in parts of Scotland, principally in the Tay valley and around Loch Lomond. According to the British Deer Society distribution survey 2007 they have enjoyed an increase in range since the previous survey in 2000 although the increase in range is not as spectacular as for some of the other deer species. In Ireland there is a long-established herd of about 450 in Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Fallow deer buck
Buck (with growing antlers) and four does
A significant number of the fallow in the Forest of Dean and in Epping Forest are of the black variety. One particularly interesting population is that based in the Mortimer Forest on the England/Wales border where a significant part of the population have long hair with distinct ear tufts and longer body hair.
The Rhodian population of fallow deer has been found to average smaller than those of central and northern Europe, though they are similarly coloured. In 2005, the Rhodian fallow deer was found to be genetically distinct from all other populations and to be of urgent conservation concern. At the entrance to the harbour of Rhodes city, statues of a fallow deer buck and doe now grace the location where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood.
Three of the colour variants found at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas
The species Odocoileus virginianus was once classified as Dama virginianus; they were given a separate genus in the 19th century.
In more recent times, fallow deer have been introduced in parts of the United States. A small feral population exists on one barrier island in Georgia. Fallow deer have also been introduced in Texas, along with many other exotic deer species, where they are often hunted on large game ranches. They also live in Rhode Island.
In Pennsylvania, fallow deer are considered livestock since there are no feral animals breeding in the wild. Occasional reports of wild fallow deer in Pennsylvania are generally attributed to escapes from preserves or farms.
Fellow deer are also popular in rural areas of Kwa-Zulu Natal for hunting purposes, as well as in parts of the Gauteng province to beautify ranches and in the Eastern Cape where they were introduced on game farms for the hunting industry because of their exotic qualities.<Muka-Kwe, Blue Saddle Ranches >. Fallow deer adapted extremely well to the South African environment especially when it has access of savanna grasslands and particularly in the cooler climate ranges such as the Highveld.
One noted historical herd of fallow deer is located in the Ottenby Preserve in Öland, Sweden where Karl X Gustav erected a drystone wall some four kilometres long to enclose a royal fallow deer herd in the mid 17th century; the herd still exists as of 2006. Another is Phoenix Park in Ireland where a herd of 400–450 fallow deer descend from the original herd introduced in the 1660s.
The fallow deer is easily tamed and is often kept semi-domesticated in parks today.
The name Fallow is derived from the deer's pale brown color. The Latin word dāma or damma, used for roe deer, gazelles, and antelopes, lies at the root of the modern scientific name, as well as the German Damhirsch, French daim, Dutch damhert, and Italian daino. In Croatian and Serbian, the name for the fallow deer is jelen lopatar ("shovel deer"), due to the form of its antlers. The Hebrew name of the fallow deer, yachmur (יחמור), comes from the Aramaic language, where chamra (חמרא) means "red" or "brown".
^ abMasseti, M. & Mertzanidou, D. (2008). Dama dama. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 8 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.