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Information : Species : Fallow

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

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                             Female                                                                     Male
Fallow female Fallow male

Recognition. Intermediate in size between roe and red deer. There are four main variations in coat but many minor variations also exist including a long-haired version found in Mortimer forest, Shropshire. The common variety is the familiar tan/fawn colour with white spotting (becoming long and grey with indistinct spots in winter) on the flanks and white rump patch outlined with characteristic black horse-shoe. The Menil variety is paler, lacks the black bordered rump and keeps its white spots all year. 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. The fallow is the only British deer with palmate antlers.

Adult size. Bucks (males): 84 to 94cm at shoulder, 46 to 94kg. Does (females): 73 to 91cm at shoulder, 35 to 56kg.

Antlers. Palmate in adult (>3 years), increase in size with age, up to 70cm long.

Life span. Exceptionally, 16 years, bucks (males) rarely exceed 8 to 10 years. Status. Non-native but considered naturalised. Locally abundant and increasing.


Fallow Deer


UK distribution. Widespread in England and Wales, patchy in Scotland.

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

Food & feeding. Preferential grazers of grasses although trees and dwarf shrub shoots will be taken during autumn and winter.

Origins & history. The extant species of fallow deer found in Britain was introduced by the Normans in the 11th century although some would suggest that the Romans attempted to introduce it here much earlier. Fallow deer were prized as ornamental species and were protected in Royal Hunting "Forests" for royal sport. During Mediaeval times many deer parks that held fallow deer were established and these and more recent park escapees have given rise to the free-living populations in Britain today.

Social Organisation. Group sizes as well as the degree of sexual segregation varies according to population density and habitat. Groups of adult males and females, usually with young, remain apart for most of the year in large woodlands, only coming together to breed. Sexes freely mix in large herds throughout the year in open, agricultural environments. 

Vocalisation. During the rut bucks groan tremendously and does with fawns give a short bark when alarmed.

The rut. 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. In areas with very high buck densities a lek may be formed. In lower density areas bucks may simply seek out receptive females. During conflict, the escalation of display behaviour in bucks, from groaning and parallel walks to fighting, is in common with other larger species of deer.  Follow this link for an amateur film of Fallow in the rut: '>">


Breeding. Adult does give birth to a single fawn in June after a gestation of 229 days.


Activity. Fallow deer are active throughout the 24-hour period but make use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations experiencingfrequent disturbance.


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.

Ecomonic factors. Browsing of tree shoots and agricultural crops puts fallow deer in conflict with farmers and foresters due to ther potential economic damage. Their propensity for reaching very high local densities can result in high local levels of damage. Conversely, many country and forest estate can gain substanial revenue from recreational stalking and/or venison production. 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.


Further reading

Chapman D. and Chapman N. (1975) Fallow deer: their history, distribution and biology, Terence Dalton, Lavenham.


Chapman N. (1984) Fallow deer. Anthony Nelson, Oswestry.

Langbein J. and Chapman N. (2002) Fallow deer. The Mammal Society, London and The British Deer Society, Fordingbridge  
















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