family of mammals

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

Temporal range: Early Oligocene – Recent
Red deer stag 2009 denmark.jpg
A fully grown male Red deer
Scientific classification

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

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.


The deer has big ears, long, slender legs, and a short tail. The fur of a deer is brown and smooth.


Almost all adult deer have antlers, except one, the water deer, which has tusks. Only male deer have antlers, except for Reindeer (Caribou) 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.[3][4]

Musk deer, which have no antlers, are not in the family Cervidae. They are in the family Moschidae. Their evolutionary history is not well-known, and they are usually described as being "not true deer".[5]


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 one or two fawns in the spring. The fawn is precocial, and 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.


Deer are a monophyletic group.[2] They originated in the northern hemisphere and arrived in some Gondwana continents much later. Red deer are found in the Atlas Mountains of North Africa, and some deer arrived in South America via the Great American Interchange.

Below North Africa there are no deer. Their place in the ecosystems is taken by antelopes, which occupy a niche similar to the deer. Antelopes are not a monophyletic group. The antelope types have evolved from several bovid groups, and is an example of convergent evolution.


The most famous fictional deer is Bambi.


A moose, the largest deer
A baby roe deer, hiding
A white-tailed deer mother and her fawn
In shaded areas they are not so easy to see

The deer family has about 62 species.


  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. "ADW: Cervidae: Information". Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  4. Malo A.F. et al 2005. Antlers honestly advertise sperm production and quality. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences. 272:149-157.
  5. Frädrich H 1984. "Deer". In Macdonald D. (ed) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 518–9. ISBN 978-0-87196-871-5