Roe deer

Last updated

Roe deer
Capreolus capreolus 2 Jojo.jpg
Male (buck) and female (doe) roe deer
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Capreolinae
Genus: Capreolus
C. capreolus
Binomial name
Capreolus capreolus
Areale Capreolus capreolus.jpg
Range of Capreolus capreolus

Cervus capreolusLinnaeus, 1758

The European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), also known as the western roe deer, chevreuil, or simply roe deer or roe, is a species of deer. The male of the species is sometimes referred to as a roebuck. The roe deer is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. The species is widespread in Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from Scotland to the Caucasus, and east to northern Iran and Iraq. It is distinct from the somewhat larger Siberian roe deer.


Within Europe, the European roe deer occurs in most areas, with the exception of northernmost Scandinavia (north of Narvik) and some of the islands, notably Iceland, Ireland, and the Mediterranean Sea islands; in the Mediterranean region, it is largely confined to mountainous areas, and is absent or rare at low altitudes. Scottish roe deer were introduced to the Lissadell Estate in Co. Sligo in Ireland around 1870 by Sir Henry Gore-Booth, Bt. [3] The Lissadell deer were noted for their occasional abnormal antlers and survived in that general area for about 50 years before they died out. According to the National Biodiversity Data Centre, in 2014 there was a confirmed sighting of roe deer in County Armagh. There have been other, unconfirmed, sightings in County Wicklow. [4] [5]

In England and Wales, roe have experienced a substantial expansion in their range in the latter half of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st century. [6] This increase in population also appears to be affecting woodland ecosystems. [7] At the start of the 20th century, they were almost extinct in Southern England, but since then have hugely expanded their range for no apparent reason and possibly in some cases with human help. In 1884, roe were introduced from Württemberg in Germany into the Thetford Chase area, and these spread to populate most of Norfolk, Suffolk, and substantial parts of Cambridgeshire. In southern England, they started their expansion in Sussex (possibly from enclosed stock in Petworth Park) and from there soon spread into Surrey, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Dorset, and for the first half of the 20th century, most roe in southern England were to be found in these counties. By the end of the 20th century, they had repopulated much of Southern England and had expanded into Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Lincolnshire, and South Yorkshire, and had even spread into mid-Wales from the Ludlow area where an isolated population had appeared. At the same time, the surviving population in Scotland and the Lake District had pushed further south beyond Yorkshire and Lancashire and into Derbyshire and Humberside.[ citation needed ]

Roe can now be found in most of rural England except for south east Kent and the greater part of Staffordshire and Cheshire, although the expansion is continuing to the extent that before the end of the 21st century, anywhere in the UK mainland suitable for roe may have a population.[ citation needed ] Not being a species that needs large areas of woodland to survive, urban roe are now a feature of several cities, notably Glasgow and Bristol, where in particular they favour cemeteries. In Wales, they are less common, but have been seen as far south west as Cardigan and as far north west as Bangor, and they are reasonably well established in Powys and Monmouthshire.

German colonial administrators introduced roe deer to the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia. They are hunted by locals in very steep and heavily vegetated terrain. The meat is openly sold in markets and restaurants in Kolonia, the capital city of Pohnpei and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The roe deer is distinct from the somewhat larger Siberian roe deer (Capreolus pygargus) found from the Ural Mountains to as far east as China and Siberia. The two species meet at the Caucasus Mountains, with the European species occupying the southern flank of the mountain ranges and adjacent Asia Minor, and the Siberian species occupying the northern flank of the mountain ranges.

It is known that there are roe deer that live in the Red Forest near Chernobyl. [8]


Roe deer in a grassland area Capreolus capreolus (Marek Szczepanek).jpg
Roe deer in a grassland area

The roe deer is a relatively small deer, with a body length of 95–135 cm (3.1–4.4 ft), a shoulder height of 65–75 cm (2.1–2.5 ft), and a weight of 15–35 kg (33–77 lb). [9] Bucks in good conditions develop antlers up to 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long with two or three, rarely even four, points. When the male's antlers begin to regrow, they are covered in a thin layer of velvet-like fur which disappears later on after the hair's blood supply is lost. Males may speed up the process by rubbing their antlers on trees, so that their antlers are hard and stiff for the duels during the mating season. Unlike most cervids, roe deer begin regrowing antlers almost immediately after they are shed.

Habitat and diet

Roe deer tracks Roe deer track03.jpg
Roe deer tracks

The roe deer is primarily crepuscular, very quick and graceful, and lives in woods, although it may venture into grasslands and sparse forests. They feed mainly on grass, leaves, berries, and young shoots. They particularly like very young, tender grass with a high moisture content, i.e., grass that has received rain the day before. Roe deer will not generally venture into a field that has had or has livestock (sheep, cattle) in it because the livestock make the grass unclean. A pioneer species commonly associated with biotic communities at an early stage of succession, during the Neolithic period in Europe, the roe deer was abundant, taking advantage of areas of forest or woodland cleared by Neolithic farmers. [10]

Behaviour and lifecycle

Roe deer, male and female in Segovia, Spain Corzo 24-10-2015 5.jpg
Roe deer, male and female in Segovia, Spain

In order to mitigate risk while foraging, roe deer remain within refuge habitats (such as forests) during the day. They are likelier to venture into more open habitats at night and during crepuscular periods when there is less ambient activity. Similarly, roe deer are more likely to be spotted in places with nearby forests to retreat to if there is a perceived threat. [11]

The roe deer attains a maximum lifespan (in the wild) of 10 years. When alarmed, it will bark a sound much like a dog and flash out its white rump patch. Rump patches differ between the sexes, with the white rump patches heart-shaped on females and kidney-shaped on males. Males may also bark or make a low grunting noise. Females (does) make a high-pitched "pheep" whine to attract males during the rut (breeding season) in July and August. Initially, the female goes looking for a mate and commonly lures the buck back into her territory before mating. The roe deer is territorial, and while the territories of a male and a female might overlap, other roe deer of the same sex are excluded unless they are the doe's offspring of that year.


Ultrasonography of the uterine pregnancy of a roe deer in Bulgaria Ultrasonography of pregnant European roe deer (Capreolus Capreolus).jpg
Ultrasonography of the uterine pregnancy of a roe deer in Bulgaria
Roe deer fawn, two to three weeks old Kid-jbk.jpg
Roe deer fawn, two to three weeks old

The polygamous roe deer males clash over territory in early summer and mate in early autumn. During courtship, when the males chase the females, they often flatten the underbrush, leaving behind areas of the forest in the shape of a figure eight called 'roe rings'. Males may also use their antlers to shovel around fallen foliage and soil as a way of attracting a mate. Roebucks enter rutting inappetence during the July and August breeding season. Females are monoestrous and after delayed implantation usually give birth the following June, after a 10-month gestation period, typically to two spotted fawns of opposite sexes. The fawns remain hidden in long grass from predators; they are suckled by their mother several times a day for around three months. Young female roe deer can begin to reproduce when they are around 6 months old.[ citation needed ] During the mating season, a male roe deer may mount the same doe several times over a duration of several hours. [12]

The world-famous deer Bambi (the titular character of the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods (1923) and its sequel Bambi's Children (1939), by the Austrian author Felix Salten) was originally a roe deer. When the story was adapted into the animated feature film Bambi (1942), by the Walt Disney Studios, Bambi was changed to a mule deer, and accordingly, the setting was changed to a North American wilderness. These changes made Bambi a deer species more familiar to mainstream US viewers. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Deer A family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

Deer are the hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the fallow deer, and the chital; and the Capreolinae, including the reindeer (caribou), the roe deer, and the moose. Female reindeer, and male deer of all species except the Chinese water deer, grow and shed new antlers each year. In this they differ from permanently horned antelope, which are part of a different family (Bovidae) within the same order of even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla).

Antler anatomically, bone protrusion from head

Antlers are extensions of an animal's skull found in members of the deer family. Antlers are true bone and are a single structure. They are generally found only on males, with the exception of the reindeer/caribou. Antlers are shed and regrown each year and function primarily as objects of sexual attraction and as weapons in fights between males for control of harems.

Père Davids deer A species of mammals belonging to the deer, muntjac, roe deer, reindeer, and moose family of ruminants

The Père David's deer, also known as the milu or elaphure, is a species of deer that went extinct in the wild, but has been reintroduced in some areas. The milu is native to the river valleys of China, where it prefers wetland habitats. It grazes mainly on grass and aquatic plants. It is the only extant member of the genus Elaphurus. Based on genetic comparisons, Père David's deer is closely related to the deer of the genus Cervus, leading many experts to suggest merging Elaphurus into Cervus, or demoting Elaphurus to a subgenus of Cervus.

Musk deer genus of mammals

Musk deer can refer to any one, or all seven, of the species that make up Moschus, the only extant genus of the family Moschidae. The musk deer family differs from cervids, or true deer, by lacking antlers and facial glands and by possessing only a single pair of teats, a gallbladder, a caudal gland, a pair of tusk-like teeth and—of particular economic importance to humans—a musk gland.

Fallow deer A genus of mammals belonging to the deer, muntjac, roe deer, reindeer, and moose family of ruminants

The fallow deer is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. This common species is native to Europe, but has been introduced to Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, South Africa, Fernando Pó, São Tomé, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Réunion, Seychelles, Comoro Islands, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Cyprus, Israel, Cape Verde, Lebanon, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the Falkland Islands, and Peru. Some taxonomers include the rarer Persian fallow deer as a subspecies, while others treat it as an entirely different species.

White-tailed deer species of mammal

The white-tailed deer, also known as the whitetail or Virginia deer, is a medium-sized deer native to North America, Central America, Ecuador, and South America as far south as Peru and Bolivia. It has also been introduced to New Zealand, Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles, and some countries in Europe, such as the Czech Republic, Finland, Romania, Serbia, Germany, and France. In the Americas, it is the most widely distributed wild ungulate.

Elds deer A species of mammals belonging to the deer, muntjac, roe deer, reindeer, and moose family of ruminants

Eld's deer, also known as the thamin or brow-antlered deer, is an endangered species of deer indigenous to South Asia. The species was first described and given its binomial name from specimens obtained in Manipur in India in 1839. The Manipur name for the deer was noted as Sungnaee and it was described in 1842 by John McClelland as being "nondescript" but it was given the name Cervus eldi by Guthrie. in honour of Lt. Percy Eld, a British officer who was attached to the residency at Manipur. The three subspecies of the Eld's deer are:

Red deer Species of mammal

The red deer is one of the largest deer species. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, Iran, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Red deer have been introduced to other areas, including Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. In many parts of the world, the meat (venison) from red deer is used as a food source.

Chital A species of mammals belonging to the deer, muntjac, roe deer, reindeer, and moose family of ruminants

The chital, also known as spotted deer, chital deer, and axis deer, is a species of deer that is native in the Indian subcontinent. The species was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Polycarp Erxleben in 1777. A moderate-sized deer, male chital reach nearly 90 cm (35 in) and females 70 cm (28 in) at the shoulder. While males weigh 30–75 kg (66–165 lb), the lighter females weigh 25–45 kg (55–99 lb). The species is sexually dimorphic; males are larger than females, and antlers are present only on males. The upper parts are golden to rufous, completely covered in white spots. The abdomen, rump, throat, insides of legs, ears, and tail are all white. The antlers, three-pronged, are nearly 1 m (3.3 ft) long.

Reevess muntjac species of mammal

Reeves's muntjac, also known as the Chinese muntjac, is a muntjac species found widely in southeastern China and Taiwan. It has also been introduced in Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Japan. It takes its name from John Reeves, an employee of the British East India Company in the 19th century.

Siberian roe deer species of mammal

The Siberian roe deer or eastern roe deer is a species of roe deer found in northeastern Asia. In addition to Siberia and Mongolia, it is found in Kazakhstan, the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, eastern Tibet, the Korean Peninsula, and northeastern China (Manchuria).

Thorolds deer Species of mammal

Thorold's deer is a threatened species of deer found in grassland, shrubland, and forest at high altitudes in the eastern Tibetan Plateau. It is also known as the white-lipped deer for the white patches around its muzzle.

<i>Cervus</i> A genus of mammals belonging to the deer, muntjac, roe deer, reindeer, and moose family of ruminants

Cervus is a genus of deer that primarily are native to Eurasia, although one species occurs in northern Africa and another in North America. In addition to the species presently placed in this genus, it has included a whole range of other species now commonly placed in other genera, but some of these should perhaps be returned to Cervus. Additionally, the species-level taxonomy is in a state of flux.

Elk Large antlered species of deer from North America and east Asia

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in North America and Northeast Asia. This animal should not be confused with the still larger Alces alces, known as the moose in America, but as the "elk" in British English and in reference to populations in Eurasia.

<i>Lucanus capreolus</i> Species of beetle

Lucanus capreolus is a beetle of the family Lucanidae. The specific name capreolus is derived from Latin, meaning "roe deer". The name refers to the resemblance of the antennae to deer antlers.

Taruca species of mammal

The taruca, or north Andean deer, is a species of deer native to South America.

Deer of Ireland

There are four species of deer living wild in Ireland today, namely Red Deer, Fallow Deer, Sika Deer and the recently introduced Reeve's Muntjac which is becoming established. Recently (2016), roe deer has been spotted in county Wicklow and county Armagh The Irish Elk, or Giant Deer, and the Red Deer both became extinct in Ireland about 10,500 years ago during the Nahanagan Stadial. The Reindeer became extinct in Ireland about 9500 years ago. Many of their skeletal remains have been found well preserved in peat land.

Dumbrava Sibiului Natural Park

The Dumbrava Sibiului Natural Park is a protected area situated in central Romania, in Sibiu County, in administrative territory of Sibiu city.

Biodiversity of Wales

The biodiversity of Wales refers to the wide variety of ecosystems, living organisms, and the genetic makeups found in Wales.

Wild Field (wilderness reserve) wilderness reserve in Russia

Wild Field is a 300 ha nature reserve near the city of Tula in Tula Oblast in the European part of Russia, approximately 250 km (150 mi) south of Moscow. It was established in 2012 by Russian scientists Sergey Zimov and Nikita Zimov as a companion to Pleistocene Park in Siberia.


  1. Lovari, S.; Herrero, J.; Masseti, M.; Ambarli, H.; Lorenzini, R. & Giannatos, G. (2016). "Capreolus capreolus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . IUCN. 2016: e.T42395A22161386. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T42395A22161386.en .CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. Linnæus, Carl (1758). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I (in Latin) (10th ed.). Holmiæ (Stockholm): Laurentius Salvius. p. 78.
  3. The roe deer by Henry Tegner 1951
  4. O’Rourke, Erin; Lysaght, Liam (22 September 2014). "Risk Assessment of Capreolus capreolus" (PDF). National Biodiversity Data Centre. p. 6. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  5. "Roe Deer" (PDF). biodiversity ireland.
  6. Walker, M.D. 2016. Headhunting; the distribution of deer in Great Britain. British Naturalist, 2: 15-25
  7. Kinver, Mark (2013-01-01). "Roe deer numbers 'changing woodland ecosystems'". United Kingdom: BBC News Online . Retrieved 2013-01-02.
  8. Lavars, Nick (5 October 2015). "Deer, wolves and other wildlife thriving in Chernobyl exclusion zone". Gizmag.
  9. Macdonald, D.W.; Barrett, P. (1993). Mammals of Europe . New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN   0-691-09160-9.
  10. Boyle, K.V. (2006), "The Roe Deer: Conservation of a Native Species", in Serjeantson, D; Field, D (eds.), Neolithic wild game animals in Western Europe: The question of hunting, Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 10–23, ISBN   978-1-84217-214-8
  11. Martin, Jodie; Vourc’h, Gwenaël; Bonnot, Nadège; Cargnelutti, Bruno; Chaval, Yannick; Lourtet, Bruno; Goulard, Michel; Hoch, Thierry; Plantard, Olivier; Hewison, A. J. Mark; Morellet, Nicolas (2018-06-01). "Temporal shifts in landscape connectivity for an ecosystem engineer, the roe deer, across a multiple-use landscape". Landscape Ecology. 33 (6): 937–954. doi:10.1007/s10980-018-0641-0. ISSN   1572-9761.
  12. Linnell, J. D. C., and R. Andersen. "Timing and synchrony of birth in a hider species, the roe deer Capreolus capreolus." Journal of Zoology 244.4 (1998): 497-504.
  13. "Bambi and That Other Guy".

Further reading