Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Artiodactyla / Cervidae / Dama / Species
Dama dama - Fallow deer (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Cervus dama 
  • Daim (French)
  • Daim européen (French)
  • Damhirsch (German)
  • Dama dama mesopotamica Mesopotamian Fallow deer
  • Dama mesopotamica Mesopotamian Fallow deer

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males Buck
Names for females Doe

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General Appearance

Medium size deer, typically with a reddish-fawn, white-spotted coat. Palmate (broad-bladed) antlers (males only), conspicuously-protruding larynx in males, summer coat thin, smooth; winter coat rougher, with heavy undercoat (B142, B144, B147, B158.A8.w4).

Similar Species

  • Only deer in Britain with palmate (broad bladed) antlers (B142)
  • Distinguished from larger Cervus elaphus - Red deer by smaller size, spotting, lack of mane, and rump patch. Also by antlers.
  • Distinguished from Cervus nippon - Sika deer by details of rump patch - tail longer (to below white patch) in fallow deer, and with thick central black line (narrower but variable in Sika deer), also by more distinct spots and (males only) palmate antlers.

(B142, B143, D30).

Sexual Dimorphism Males are larger,with a thicker neck and head. Only males have antlers, which are palmate (B142, B143, B144).

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

Husbandry references:

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

  • --

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Cervidae (Deer)

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Deer

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Husbandry Information


Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

  • Head-body length: 4.3-5.3ft/130-160cm (B144); 1.3-1.75m (B147)
  • Dama dama mesopotamia may be more than 2m (B147)
Height Shoulder height:  2.8-3.3ft./83-100cm (B144); 0.8-1.05m (B147); 1m (D30); Stag 90cm (B158.A8.w4)
Adult weight General 40-100kg (B147)
Male 132-187 lbs./ 60-85kg (B144); 65kg (B158.A8.w4)
Female 66-110 lbs./30-50kg (B144)
New-born weight 4.4-8.8 lbs./24kg (B144); 4-5kg (B147); 4.5kg (B158.A1.w3)
Growth rate --

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  • Males have flattened palmate antlers with many points; single unbranched horn in second year, then larger with more points each year to 5th or 6th year.
  • Front outer curve 635-940mm, tip-to-tip 305-762mm (B147); length to about 76cm, inside span up to 70cm (B142)
  • Pedicel from 5-12 months and first hard antlers from 15 months.
  • First antlers may be small knobs (3cm long) or spikes up to 23cm long. Palmate only in 3rd year or later (B142)
  • Cast April to June, regrown and velvet off by August-September, earliest in younger animals.
  • Size depends on age, condition and genotype.

(B142, B147, D30)


Nose: Black (D30)

Ears: Prominent (B142)

Dentition (Teeth)
  • I 0/3, C0/1, P3/3, M3/3
  • Canine incisiform, this and incisors spatulate. Large diastema between canines and cheek teeth. Molariform teeth hypsodont.

(B142, B147)

Eyes --

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Legs and Tracks


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  • Length: 7.4-7.65in./16-19cm (B144); 150-230mm (B147); 20cm (buck) (B158.A8.w4).
  • Dorsal centrally wide black stripe, sides and ventral white (B142, D30).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female Summer coat thin, smooth; winter coat rougher, with heavy undercoat.

Four main colour varieties:

  • (1) dorsal rich chestnut brown with white spots and ventral white in summer, becoming dark greyish brown in winter, spots then barely detectable; rump: white with black border horseshoe shape. Bisected longitudinally by tail with central black line.
  • (2) menil - pale fawn heavily spotted with white, all year; rump patch whiteedged with inconspicuous brown
  • (3) white (cream) probably only found in park populations;
  • (4) black - very dark brown, especially in summer, with grey-brown spots barely detectable. Rump not white.

Tuft of hairs (about 12cm long) below vulva.

(B142, B143, B144, B147, D30, B158.A8.w4)

Variations (If present)
  • Males: prominent tuft of hairs from penis sheath visible from about 3 months old (B142, B158.A8.w4)
  • Albinos: very rare (B142)
  • Long haired variety in Mortimer Forest, Shropshire, UK (B142)
Moult Moult to summer coat in May, winter coat acquired October (B147)
New-born / Juvenile
  • Brown (slightly darker than normal adults) and white-spotted (B147).
  • Cream/white animals are sandy coloured at birth (B142)

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics


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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

  • Reproductive: bicornuate uterus, paired pea-sized ovaries, cotyledonary placenta. Scrotal testes. Four teats on udder.
  • Scent glands: pre-orbital glands.


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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season September-October (Northern hemisphere) (B147, B158.A1.w3)
Oestrus / Ovulation
  • About 24-26 days (B147),
  • Seasonally polyoestrous. (B142, B158.A1.w3)
  • Oestrus cycle about 21 days, in oestrus about 15 hours (B142); 22 + 1.3 days (B158.A1.w3)
Gestation / Pregnancy
  • 31-32 weeks (B144)mean 229days Germany, 237 days New Zealand (B147)
  • Mean 229 days (B142); 234 days (B158.A1.w3)
Parturition / Birth Births in spring. Usually June, occasionally to November (B142, B147); Late May/June (B158.A1.w3)
Neonatal development
  • Fawns left alone initially except for feeding.
  • Later follow dam.


Litter size
  • 1-2, rarely 3 (B144) usually one (B147), 1 rarely two (B142); One (B158.A1.w3)
Time between Litters / Litters per year
  • Breed annually (B148).
Lactation / Milk Production
  • 9-12 months (B144)
  • May be 9 months (B142)
Sexual Maturity
  • About 18 months (B144).
  • Males 7-14 months (B142), females as yearlings (16 months) if sufficient nutrition (B142, B147)
  • 16 months (B158.A1.w3)
Longevity 20-25 years (B144); about 15 years; 20 years and more recorded in captivity (B147)

Males rarely more than 8-10 years, females maximum 16 years recorded in wild. More than 20 years recorded in captivity (B142)

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Natural Diet

Grasses, also herbs and broad-leaf browse (leaves, buds, shoots, bark), with acorns, beech mast and other fruit in autumn, bramble, holly, ivy, heather and coniferous browse supplement grass in winter (B142, B144, B147).

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces --
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n + 68, FNa = 68 (B142)
Other Antlers cast late April/May, antlers cleaned late August/September (B158.A1.w3)

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Feeding Behaviour

Mainly grazer, also browses trees and shrubs (B142, B147)

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Parental Behaviour


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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

  • Generally gregarious.
  • Males and females separate much of year.
  • Males form bachelor groups, particularly in February to September, of 3-5 usually (rarely more)
  • Females and young (including males to 18 months) form herds. Females groups 1 to five.
  • Female groups led by dominant doe and generally hierarchical.
  • Groups may aggregate up to 70-100 individuals.
  • Non-territorial, with extensively overlapping home ranges.
  • Home range size varies depending on habitat.
  • Aggression between males competing for display grounds.
  • Males move into range of females for breeding in September/October, return to own range by November/December.
  • Some populations, males stay with females until April/May.
  • In open habitats may be mixed herds year round.
  • Mature bucks compete to establish rutting stands (display grounds) - site may be held by same buck in several years.
  • Does may return to particular area or even rutting stand in successive years, together with daughters.
  • Stands may be separated, or very close forming a lek.
  • No display grounds in areas where remain in mixed herds.
  • Bucks may tolerate one other male on their stand.

(B142, B143, B147)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Various mating systems seen in different regions.
  • Nuzzling of doe by buck prior to copulation.
  • Fights between males in rut mainly consist of ritualised antler shoving.
  • Rattling bellow by stags.

(B142, B143, B144, B147

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Predation in Wild

  • Wolf, lynx, bear (B144).
  • Neonates may be taken by foxes on occasion (B142).

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Activity Patterns

  • Mainly walk and trot.
  • Pronk when alarmed, then stand, stare, run.
  • Jump well and swim well.


  • Mainly crepuscular and nocturnal, feeding early morning and late afternoon to evening.
  • Lie up in cover of vegetation in daytime
  • More often in open in daytime where undisturbed.
  • Older males more nocturnal except in rut.

(B142, B144, B147)

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Various habitats, usually with some forest, including open woodlands in Mediterranean, mixed forests, plains, low mountain areas.
  • Mature woodlands preferred, particularly deciduous or mixed although use coniferous if some open areas.
  • Open land used for foraging.
  • Seen in open habitats more in summer (May-June), and more in woodlands from September to March/April (B142)
  • Not found in alpine regions.

(B142, B143. B144, B147)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

Use woodlands for shelter (B142)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Original: Turkey to Iran, and Mediterranean Europe (may have been introduced by Phoenicans (B142, B143, B147)
Occasional and Accidental --
  • Introduced across Europe by the Romans and Normans.

  • Widely introduced: South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America

  • In Britain, found widespread, also on Anglesea, Islay, Scarba, Mull, Lambay (B142).

(B142, B143, B144, B147)

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Intraspecific variation

Coat colour variation may be due to long history of management in parks (B143)

Dama dama mesopotamia sometimes recognised as a seperate species Dama mesopotamia (B141)

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Dama dama mesopotamia Mesopotamian fallow deer is endangered (B143, B144).

  • Pest species in New Zealand (B143)

  • In Britain: introduced, widespread and locally common. Pre-breeding population estimate of about 100,000, including 95,000 in England, less than 4,000 in Scotland, less than 1,000 in Wales; estimate does not include park deer (about 17,000) or farmed deer. Population estimate "based on a very limited amount of information for the species" although additional knowledge "may not necessarily have made a substantial difference to the estimate". (B221)

General Legislation
CITES listing Dama dama mesopotamia Mesopotamian fallow deer: Cites Appendix 1 (B147)
Red-data book listing --
  • Road traffic accidents may cause local population reductions in some areas  B221).
  • Potential risk of sub-specific hybridisation with individuals of other subspecies escaping from deer parks (B221).
Captive Populations  

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