The Red Deer of Europe and Asia

The red deer is one of the largest deer species. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region and parts of Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Although at one time red deer were rare in parts of Europe, they were never close to extinction.

Subtle differences in appearance are noted between the various subspecies of red deer, primarily in size and antlers, with the smallest being the Corsican red deer found on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia and the largest being the Caspian red deer (or maral) of Asia Minor and the Caucasus Region to the west of the Caspian Sea. The deer of Central and Western Europe vary greatly in size, with some of the largest deer found in the Carpathian Mountains in Central Europe.

Mature red deer usually stay in single-sex groups for most of the year. During the mating season, called the rut, mature stags compete for the attentions of the hinds and will then try to defend the hinds they attract. Rival stags challenge opponents by belling and walking in parallel. This allows combatants to assess each other’s antlers, body size and fighting prowess. If neither stag backs down, a clash of antlers can occur (as present in attached picture), and stags sometimes sustain serious injuries.

Red deer are widely depicted in cave art found throughout European caves, with some of the artwork dating from as early as 40,000 years ago! What a great animal, another symbol of wilderness!

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