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Red Deer Cervus elaphus)

Diputación de Málaga
Ciervo baja ARL

Red Deer Cervus elaphus)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is an ungulate (animal with hooves) of large size (head-body length ♀︎195 to ♂︎220 cm; height at the cross-section ♀︎110 to ♂︎120 cm) with marked sexual dimorphism. Both sexes have uniform brown fur, lighter on the belly and with an almost white anal shield. The tail is short. Males are bigger than females and have cylindrical and branched horns or antlers with several tips. The (deciduous) horns fall at the end of winter or in early spring. Young males gradually develop their horns, having little branching until they are two years old . The number of tips and the complexity of the branch increases with age. The offspring have mottled white fur until three months of age.

Where does it live?

It is a forest species with a preference for woods and scrub areas near meadows. The coverage of woody species is important, as it provides them shelter and food. They especially use the edges between the forest and pasture areas, although with seasonal changes in their preferences. It is present in both deciduous and mixed or coniferous forests. It is quickly expanding to peri-urban environments (forests, urbanizations and golf courses).

How does it live?

It is a roaming animal (it eats tender shoots, tree leaves and branches and bushes). It feeds on plants and almost all types of bushes, as well as fruits. Its diet includes plants during winter and spring, whereas it eats woody plants and fruits in summer and autumn. This seasonal food change is reflected in the way the species uses the habitat. It is a gregarious animal, more sociable than roe deer, but less than deer. Both sexes live apart throughout the year, except during the mating period. The basic social unit consists of the female accompanied by the current and previous year’s breeding.  The older males are solitary and the young form groups of similar aged animals. They are active at night and dusk. Their territory ranges from 2,2 to 6,5 km2. 

How does it reproduce?

It is a polygynous species (males mate with female groups). When the rutting season comes, the males emit bellows to mark territory and attract females, fighting each other to dominate the harems (up to 50 females). The beginning of mating period coincides with the end of summer, a greater environmental humidity and the first autumn rains. The births, usually one a year, are of a lonely offspring. When females are accompanied by two offspring, they are usually adoptions.

Where can we see it in Málaga?

It is present and abundant in the main Malaga mountains, from the Montes de Cortes, Guadiaro and Genal valleys, Monte del Duque, surroundings of the Antequera mountains, Hoz de Marín (Archidona) and Sierra Tejeda. It is an expanding species that increasingly colonizes territories in the province. There are peri-urban populations in the Costa del Sol. On the Great Path (Gran Senda), we can observe it for example on stages 12 and 23 to 28. 

Curious facts

The deer's courtship system implies that males fight until exhaustion to get the females. Less dominant or weaker males tend to run out of harems. Or not? Some males deliberately avoid getting involved in the struggles and wait for the dominant males to fight and get tired. When this happens they steal some females or, when they face opponents passively who can no longer fight, they take the harem. The cleverest is not always the strongest.

Similar species

Females and young specimens can especially be mistaken with those of fallow deer. The deer are larger, lacking white band on the flank and the tail does not have a black and white anal shield. Concerning the roe deer females, they are bigger than these.

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