Fallow Deer

Terminology.

Male Fallow deer are known as Bucks.

Females are known as Does.

Offspring are known as Fawns.

Origins and History.

Fallow deer found in Britain are not indigenous as most would think; in fact they are an introduced species. The Normans first introduced Fallow in the 10th Century, although it is suggested that there were earlier populations introduced by the Romans. Fallow have always been prised as a species renowned for being hunted. Initially these deer were only hunted in Royal Parks, it was from these parks that the descendants of the Fallow deer we see today escaped. Subsequently free-living populations have spread across Britain and are now considered to be widespread.

Weight

The males can weigh between 46 - 94 kilos.

The females are lighter at 35 - 56 kilos.

Appearance

Standing between 33 - 38" at the shoulder Fallow are large in appearance. Although they are not the biggest deer species, they are generally considered to be in between the size of a Roe and a Red.

Unlike other deer species Fallow can be born with different colours of pelage, the four main variations are known as Common, Menil, Black and White. The common is the more familiar tan/fawn colour with white spotting on the flanks. In the summer common Fallow change their coat into a reddish colour with white spots. In the winter the coat dulls and the spots are almost indistinguishable. Throughout the year a distinct dorsal line is clearly visible. In the Mortimer forest a variety exists known as the longhaired Fallow (Dama dama springthorpei).

The Menil variety is paler and lacks the black border around the rump. Black Fallow are as their name suggests almost entirely black and have no white colouration at all. The white variety is not albino but a true colour variation, initially a sandy colour the white becomes more evident with age, and therefore a pure white Fallow is likely to be an adult.

Fallow are the only British species of deer with palmate antlers, this is the name given to the shape of the top of the antler, as it resembles the palm of a hand with each tip or spellor representing a finger. Bucks that are three years or older will develop this palmation of the antler, which becomes larger as the animal matures.

When feeding at the woodland edge the Does standing in open field look back into the wood to signal their offspring to come and feed. The signal used is a gentle up and down movement of the head and neck. This gesture will entice the fawn to join its mother.

Fallow deer have the largest tail of all the deer species, at 18" long it is easy to distinguish them from other deer.

Habitat

Fallow are lovers of mature semi- mature woodland, especially when interspersed by farmland. Because of their love of this environment, they are frequently the cause of damage to arable crops. In areas where they are not managed populations have increased and the level of damage to agricultural crops is astoundingly high.

Behaviour

Fallow behave in various manners depending on the level of disturbance. In areas where they are particularly targeted they can become almost nocturnal, however, the usual peak time for movement is at dawn and dusk, periods in between are spent laying up in dense cover to allow them to ruminate.

Fallow can often be seen following each other in a line, when alarmed they develop a leaping motion, which is known as “pronking". Commonly the different sexes remain in like groups for most of the year, these groups break up when approaching the rut.

Breeding

The Buck will hold a "rutting stand" in October and November; this is where he defends his exclusive access to the herd of Does he has accumulated. This behaviour may be considered unusual as Fallow are not considered to be territorial. Behaviour patterns escalate during the rut and can vary from the parallel walking and groaning of two Bucks to fighting. Injuries at this time are commonplace. Bucks will wallow in shallow scrapes filled with water mud and their own urine, this behaviour is intended to enhance their presence amongst the Does and deter any would be contender from an attempt to fight for the rutting stand. Gestation lasts 7 - 8 months and one fawn is born in June per pregnancy.

Vocalisation

Fallow are usually silent, with the exception of the rut. At this time Bucks will groan and Does / Fawns will give a short bark when alarmed.