Intro to the Fallow Deer
Close relative, the Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) western Asia -- larger body size and antlers.
Fallow deer occur in 4 basic color variations - "common", "menil", "melanistic" and "white". All have white spots on their backs (though sometimes very faint) and white rumps/tails with black tips. True albinism (completely white with pink eyes) is extremely rare. Common fallow resemble axis deer, having a burnt orange coat with white spots. Melanistic breeds are often mistaken for sika deer because of their dark chocolate brown coat. Color variations interbreed regularly. Fawns are born tan. Adult males have heavily palmated antlers that are often irregular in shape. Palmation span varies greatly but usually stretches 5.5 to 10.5 inches in diameter. Younger males have spikes or more "regular" antlers comprised of beams with 3 to 4 basic points per side and little to no palmation. Females do not grow antlers and male antlers are shed and regrown each year. Fallow have a prominent Adam's apple that helps distinguish them from axis deer when antlers are not present. Males weigh from 175 to 200 lbs., on average; female weights range from 55 to 120 lbs.
Fallow Deer behavior
Prefer deciduous or mixed woodlands and open grasslands for feeding. During rut, males will stop eating and lose up to 17% of their body weight. Antlers are shed annually, following the breeding season (around April or May). There seems to be a correlation between age and the time that antlers are shed each year, with the oldest bucks shedding earliest. During the rutting season, males aggressively battle and use deep groans as a way of determining dominance. Fallow deer make several vocalizations used in communication, but recent research has focused on the loud groans from males during the breeding season (see Video below). Researchers believe that deeper groaning tones are a good indicator of a male's higher social status. During mating season it is not uncommon to hear a myriad of bellowing males from a long distance.
Fallow Deer food and eating habits
Feed primarily on large amounts of browse. Will alter diet readily based on what is prevalent at the time. Prefer forbs, but often available only in spring. Have been known to eat non-plant items such as dirt to gain nutrients.
Fallow Deer breeding
Peak rut takes place in October, but rutting activity can begin in September and continue on into November. During this time, males will establish and defend small areas known as "stands", which they defend from other males. Females and young will stay in these territories through the breeding season, where they are bred as they come into heat. After the rut males stop defending their stands and form bachelor groups with other males. The females and young will form their own groups as well. Fawning generally takes place from the last weeks of May to June. Females have 1 young per season, but twins are not uncommon.
Fallow Deer average life span
12-16 years, with 25 years recorded.
Keeping Fallow Deer
Easily tamed and semi-domesticated in some cases. Very adaptable diets. Will switch from feeding primarily on browse to mostly on grasses, and vice versa, depending on competition for resources. If competing with whitetail, fallow will adjust their diets to grazing more heavily on grass and less on browse. If competing with livestock, they will become primarily browsers. Need some tree cover and undergrowth for shelter and food during winter. Be conscious of interbreeding of different color forms, must be kept separate to avoid. Fallow deer are very resistant to disease, low maintenance, excellent venison, and have a long history of captivity - over 2,000 years.
Note: Fallow were originally introduced for hunting in the royal forests of Great Britain and Ireland. This exotic has now been introduced into 93 Texas counties, primarily in the Edwards Plateau region.