Deer

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Deer
Temporal range: Early Oligocene – Recent
A fully grown male Red deer
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Suborder: Ruminantia
Family: Cervidae
Goldfuss, 1820

Deer are a group of even-toed ungulate mammals.[1] They form the family Cervidae.

A male deer is called stag or buck, a female deer is called doe, and a young deer is called fawn.

There are about 60 species of deer. They originally lived in the northern hemisphere,[2] and now are native to Europe, Asia, North America and South America. Humans introduced deer to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Antlers[change | change source]

Almost all deer have antlers.[3] Only the males have antlers.[4] The antlers are deciduous, and drop off after the mating season. Their main use is for males to fight for groups of females during the rutting season.[5][6]

Behaviour[change | change source]

Deer do not make nests or dens. They find a safe and comfortable place to rest under low hanging evergreen branches. They stay close to where they can find food. In summer, they eat grasses, plants and weeds. In the fall, they like mushrooms and small branches. They do not store their food for the winter. If the snow is not deep, they use their hooves to uncover moss and leaves. If the snow is deep, they eat twigs and branches.

The doe usually has 1 or 2 fawns in the spring. The fawn can stand immediately after birth, but is weak. The doe will hide each fawn in a different place. They are camouflaged by spots on their backs.

Deer have many predators. Wolves, cougar, dogs and people will eat deer. They are always looking, listening and smelling for danger. They can usually run faster than their predators.

Evolution[change | change source]

Deer are a monophyletic group.[2] They originated in the northern hemisphere and arrived in some Gondwana continents much later. The Red Deer are found in the Atlas Mountains of North Africa, and some deer arrived in South America via the Great American Interchange. Below the Sahara, Africa belongs to the antelopes, which occupy a niche similar to the deer.

Taxonomy[change | change source]

A moose, the biggest deer.
A baby Roe Deer, hiding.
A White-tailed Deer mother and her fawn.
Female Fallow deer


The deer family has about 62 species.

References[change | change source]

  1. The plural of 'Deer' is just 'Deer'.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Pitraa, Christian et al 2004. Evolution and phylogeny of old world deer. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33: 880–895. [1]
  3. Except one, the Chinese Water Deer, which has tusks.
  4. Except for Reindeer (Caribou)
  5. "ADW: Cervidae: Information". animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Cervidae.html. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  6. Malo A.F. et al 2005. Antlers honestly advertise sperm production and quality. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences. 272:149-157.