Deer: Key Facts

Deer are a fascinating species that are fun to spot, especially with their elusive nature. Many people don’t realize how many different types of deer exist in the wild, and how much they vary.

Deer are ruminant mammals. Ruminant means that they are hoofed, herbivorous, and are grazing mammals that have special 4-chambered stomachs. Cattle, sheep, buffalo, goats, giraffes, and camels are also ruminant.

There are over 40 different species of deer, many of which have several different subspecies. However, you’ll most likely only encounter a handful of them in your lifetime.

Here’s a table that can help to identify and differentiate the most common types of deer.

TypeLocationLifespanSize (Weight & shoulder height)SpeedUnique FeaturesScientific NameHabitat
White-tailed DeerSouthern Canada, most of North America, MexicoAround 4.5 yearsMale: 150lbs

Female: 100lbs

1.7 – 3.9 ft
30 mphWhite on the underside of the tail

Only males have antlers, which they shed each year
Odocoileus virginianusWooded areas
Mule DeerWestern North America9-11 yearsMale: 120-330 lbs

Female: 95-200 lbs

3-3.5 ft
45 mphLarge, mule-shaped earsOdocoileus hemionusArid, rocky environments with diverse plant growth
Caribou (Reindeer)Northern North AmericaAbout 15 yearsMale: 350-400 lbs

Female: 180-260 lbs

5.3-7 ft
31 mphMales and females grow antlers

They’re the only deer with hair covering their nose
Rangifer tarandusTundra, boreal woodlands
MooseNorth America (Alaska, New England), Canada15-25 yearsMale: 840-1500 lbs

Female: 440-790 lbs

4.6-6.9 ft
35 mphHeaviest species in the deer familyPalm-shaped antlers

They are natural swimmers
Alces alcesBoreal and temperate broadleaf forests
ElkNorth America, Central and East Asia10-13 yearsMale: 710-730 lbs

Female: 500-530 lbs

4.3-4.9 ft
40 mphOnly males grow antlersBabies (calves) are spotted at birth, and spots disappear at the end of their first summerCervus canadensisRainforests, prairies, deciduous forests, Rocky Mountains, valleys, and more
Roe DeerEurope7-10 years22-77 lbs

4 ft
37 mphMales have short, 3-tined antlers

Very small tail
Capreolus capreolusOpen agricultural areas, dense coniferous woodlands
Red DeerMost of Europe, Caucasus Mountains Region, Asia, IranAbout 16 yearsMale: 350-530 lbs

Female: 260-370 lbs

About 4 ft
40 mphReddish brown coat

Live in herds of up to 400 deer, which are matriarchal and led by a single female
Cervus elaphusOpen woodlands, coniferous swamps and forests
Fallow DeerTurkey, Italian Peninsula20-25 yearsMale: 88-138 lbs

Female: 68-97 lbs

3 ft
30 mphWide range of coat colors, including red, black, brown, and white

Fawns and adults all have white spotsMales have antlers
Dama DamaWoodlands, deciduous forests, marshes, meadows, agricultural areas
Axis Deer (Chital)India, parts of U.S., Australia20-30 yearsMale: 200 lbs

Female: 165 lbs

2-1/2 – 3 ft
40 mphFemales give birth to fawns any time of the year

Also known as spotted deer, keep their spots for lifeMales have antlers
Axis axisSemi-open dry scrub forest

Here are some useful guides that we’ve put together – about deer survival during the winter; about doe pregnancy; about baby deer; about feeding them; about deer feeders, etc.

Read also about other forest mammals – here are our guides about ermine, mongoose, sloth.

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