The Fallow deer ( Dama dama ) is now a common sight in Britain. Not a true native ( Fallow deer are native to Asia ) it’s believed that the species was introduced by the Normans in the 10th century , however it’s possible they may have first arrived with the Romans much earlier. Originally the deer were kept in deer parks for hunting , being kept as a source of sport and food. The wild population today are the result of deer escaping from these locations. Agile and fast the fallow deer can run at a speed of 30 mph over short distances. Fallow deer can also jump up to 1.75 m high and up to 5 m in length.
Fallow are a medium to large species of deer. The male or buck can grow to nearly a metre tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 95kg. The female or doe are slightly smaller in size and weight , around 85cm tall and between 40 to 60kg. Fallow deer are social animals and live in single sex or mixed groups. Groups often come together to form large temporary herds
Their coats fall into four distinct variations , tan/fawn, with white spotting on flanks and white rump patch outlined with black horseshoe shaped border. Menil paler colouration with white spots year-round and a caramel horseshoe shape on rump, Melanistic , almost entirely black or chocolate coloured and white to pale sandy-coloured turning increasingly white with age. Only bucks have antlers which are broad and shovel-shaped, palmate antlers. These become full sized after the deer are four years old and can reach up to 0.8m in length. The average age is around eight to ten years in the wild , however they have been recorded living beyond 15 years in captivity.
Fallow deer usually produce a single offspring (a fawn) in June or July. The females can conceive when they are 16 months old, whereas the males can successfully breed at 16 months, but most do not breed until they are 48 months old. They have a gestation period of around eight months. As soon as the female gives birth, the female will then lick the fawn to clean it; this helps initiate the maternal bond between the two, females are the only sex that provides parental support, males do not participate in rearing the fawn. Weaning is completed at around 7 months and at around 12 months the fawn is independent
The breeding season is dependent on both the environment and population density. Bucks may form stands or leks, which are areas where small territories are defended together with those of competitors. Does then choose a mate based on its ability to defend the site from rivals. Bucks perform ritualized displays as a form of competing with others, which sometimes can lead to fights if evenly matched. The Fallow mating season or rut occurs in October/November.
Fallow deer are grazers rather than browsers and not especially selective in their choice of food. Grasses are the main component of their diet although they do take woody plants in autumn and winter when nutrition in the grass is low.
The fallow deer has no natural predators in Britain and has a population of 100,000 . The population has remained unchanged over the past 10 years. They are present throughout much of England and parts of Wales and Ireland, and parts of Scotland.