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Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Diputación de Málaga
Gamo baja ARL

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is an ungulate (animal with hooves) of medium size (head-body length ♀︎140 to ♂︎150 cm; height on the mid-section ♀︎80 to ♂︎90 cm) with marked sexual dimorphism. Males have shovel-shaped horns, very characteristic of the species, ending in tips called "lanterns". Females lack antlers and are smaller than males. Its winter coat is dark brown without spots; then it becomes lighter in summer or speckled in white. There is a very striking white band on its flanks and its belly is clear. It has a black and white anal shield. The tail is short. Offspring have a typical white spotted pattern on its back and flanks.

Where does it live?

This species comes from the eastern Mediterranean and was introduced by the Phoenicians in the Iberian Peninsula. It is a forest animal with preference for open and flat areas, clear forests with pasture and  always wet zones or places near water points. It is present in marshes areas, dunes, cleared forests with open grass herbaceous stratum and deciduous trees. In winter, it uses the closest forest areas and even rocky slopes. Nowadays, it is also present in peri-urban environments, island forest in urbanizations and golf courses.

How does it live?

It is a grazing animal (eating mostly fresh grass without woody parts). It lacks incisor teeth, which it substitutes for a very hard corneal palate that allows it to ruminate and ingest food. It feeds on grass most of the year. It also eat fruits, stems and soft  leaves, if the grass is scarce. Browsing (which is eating woody plants) represents less than 5% of its diet. They are gregarious and very social animals, with sexual segregation except during the mating period. Female groups (average of 8 animals) are accompanied by young males, young females and offspring. Males groups are only made of adult males, sub-adults and young specimens.  Groups mix at the end of summer and in autumn. There is no data about the size of their territories.

How does it reproduce?

It is a polygamous species (males mate with several females). During the mating period, males fight each other to get females. The start of fighting is marked with bellows (known as "snores") emitted by the males to mark their territories and attract the females to the harems. The mating period occurs in autumn, when the environment shows the first symptoms of humidity after summer. There is only one birth a year of one or two offspring (usually just one).

Where can we see it in Málaga?

The existing populations in Malaga were introduced then confined to hunting estates. When it is present, it is a common and locally abundant animal, as for example in the Costa del Sol, Sierra de las Nieves, the Ronda mountain range, the Cortes mountains, Monte del Duque and some farms of the Campillos-Antequera region near the Chorro and Las Pedrizas reservoirs In the Great Path, we can find it in stages 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 28.

Curious facts

In both deer and fallow deer, the deciduous period (when the horns fall) occurs after the rutting period. This is the start of a new growth causing stress for the animals, since it requires many nutrients and a high metabolic activity. At that time, males tend to be elusive, lonely and occupy thick forest areas. The new antlers are covered with a velvet (eraser or strap) that serves to protect a tissue with many blood vessels providing food and nourishing the area where horns grow. When the growth is complete, the animals scratch the erasure against the trees to leave the new horn ready. This happens just before the next mating period.

Similar species

Females and young specimens can especially be mistaken with those of the red deer. The fallow deer are smaller; they have a white band on the flank and the tail is marked by a black and white anal shield which is unmistakable. These same characteristics distinguish them from the females roe deer, which are also smaller than the fallow deer.

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