constitute the second most diverse family of artiodactyla after bovids.[4] Though of a similar build, are strongly distinguished from antelopes by their antlers, which are temporary and regularly regrown unlike the permanent horns of bovids.[5] Characteristics typical of deer include long, powerful legs, a diminutive tail and long ears.[The elk stands 1.4–2 metres (4.6–6.6 ft) at the shoulder and weighs 240–450 kilograms (530–990 lb).[9] The northern pudu is the smallest in the world; it reaches merely 32–35 centimetres (13–14 in) at the shoulder and weighs 3.3–6 kilograms (7.3–13.2 lb). The southern pudu is only slightly taller and heavier.[10] Sexual dimorphism is quite pronounced – in most species males tend to be larger than females,[11] and, except for the reindeer, only males possess antlers.[12]

Coat colour generally varies between red and brown,[13] though it can be as dark as chocolate brown in the tufted deer[14] or have a grayish tinge as in elk.[9] Different species of brocket vary from gray to reddish brown in coat colour.[15] Several species such as the chital,[16] the fallow[17] and the sika [18] feature white spots on a brown coat. Coat of reindeer shows notable geographical variation.[19] undergo two moults in a year;[13][20] for instance, in red deer the red, thin-haired summer coat is gradually replaced by the dense, greyish brown winter coat in autumn, which in turn gives way to the summer coat in the following spring.[21] Moulting is affected by the photoperiod.[22]

They are also excellent jumpers and swimmers. They are ruminants, or cud-chewers, and have a four-chambered stomach. Some such as those on the island of Rùm,[23] do consume meat when it is available.[24]

A fawn’s first steps

Nearly all have a facial gland in front of each eye. The gland contains a strongly scented pheromone, used to mark its home range. Bucks of a wide range of species open these glands wide when angry or excited. All deer have a liver without a gallbladder.

All male deer possess antlers, with the exception of the water deer, in which males have long tusk-like canines that reach below the lower jaw.[25] Females generally lack antlers, though female reindeer bear antlers smaller and less branched than those of the males.[26] Occasionally females in other species may develop antlers, especially in telemetacarpal deer such as European roe deer, red deer, white-tailed deer and mule deer and less often in plesiometacarpal deer. A study of antlered female white-tailed noted that antlers tend to be small and malformed, and are shed frequently around the time of parturition.[27]
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