(Western Palearctic) Red deer

(Cervus elaphus spp)


(Western Palearctic) Red deer IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

There are about as many different views on the taxonomy of the red deer as there are experts. Some authors consider all red deer, including the wapiti group, to be one species. Others split the group into two species: elaphus, ranging from Western Europe to Central Asia, and canadensis the wapitis or elks of Eastern Asia and North America. More recently, it has been suggested that the red deer group may be made up of three or four different species. Similarly, views differ as to the number of and boundaries between subspecies in Europe. The deer, however, are not particularly impressed by taxonomists’ views. They all happily interbreed if allowed to. As a matter of fact, there are few autochthonous red deer in Britain and Continental Europe, as hunters and deer farmers have introduced foreign deer in order to increase the productivity or trophy size of the local populations.Body size varies enormously as a function of genetics and environmental factors. Head-body length ranges from 165-250 cm, height at shoulder from 120-150 cm, and body weight in males from 90 to more than 200 kg. Females are about one third to one fourth lighter than males.
The tailmeasures 12-15 cm, i.e. it is relatively longer than in deer of the wapiti group. It is surrounded by a light rump-patch.
Only the males grow antlers which are shed in February and start re-growing in spring. The antlers are rather straight and rugose, with the fourth and fifth tines forming a fork, which may develop into a crown if more than five tines are developed. In the year 1742 Count Ludwig VIII of Hessen Darmstadt shot a stag with 28 tines. As of today, deer with more than 20 tines are more common in Eastern Europe, but may occur anywhere if food is supplemented. The antlers may reach a weight of up to 16 kg. Exceptionally, a stag can have antlers without tines, and is then known as a "switch".
The coat is short and reddish browns in summer, and thick and grey-brown in winter. The fawns are spotted, and sometimes faint spots may be seen still in adults, mainly in females. In parts of the range the stags grow a short neck mane; hinds do not have neck manes.
The red deer is a social and mainly nocturnal animal. It swims well, and both sexes like to wallow in a mud bath.
Outside the rutting seaon, males and females travel in separate herds. Hind herds consist of a number of mother families consisting a hind and her subadult and juvenile offspring. In montane areas, there is a vertical migration with the hot summer months being spent at high altitudes.
In Central Europe, the rutting season is in September / October. After a gestation period of 34 weeks, the hind gives birth in May / June to one young, rarely twins. The fawns weigh about 6-8 kg at birth and will be weaned after 9-12 months. Sexual maturity is reached at an age of 1.5 to 3 years depending of population density and environmental factors.
Red deer are mixed feeders, doing a lot of grazing where they have access to open areas but also browsing herbs shrubs and trees, and occasionally doing considerable damage to forestry by stripping the bark of trees.

Did you know?
that in order to ensure that the measurement of red deer and other hunting trophies was as objective as possible, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) established, in 1934, standard formulas for the measurement of trophies which are now internationally accepted? These CIC Measurement Formulas. have been amended and improved over time, while becoming more widely implemented.


Name (Scientific) Cervus elaphus spp
Name (English) (Western Palearctic) Red deer
Name (French) Cerf rouge
Name (German) Rothirsch, Edelhirsch
Name (Spanish) Ciervo colorado
Local names Catalonian: Cèrvol comú
Croatian: Jelen obi?ni
Czech: Jelen evropský
Danish, Norwegian: Kronhjort, Krondyr
Dutch: Edelhert
Estonian: Punahirv
Finnish: Saksanhirvi, Punahirvi
Greek: Elaphi
Italian: Cervo rosso
Hindi: Barasingha (also used for Cervus duvauceli)
Hungarian: Gímszarvas
Kashmiri: Hangal, Honglus (male), Minyamar (female)
Latvian: Jelen evropskü
Lithuanian: Taurusis elnias
Polish: Jelen europejski
Portuguese: Veado
Romanian: Cerbul (comun) lidvan
Romansh: Tscherv cotschen
Slovak: Jelen lesný
Swedish: Kronhjort
CITES Status Appendix I (subspecies hanglu only), Appendix II (subspecies bactrianus only), Appendix III (subspecies barbarus only in Tunisia and Algeria).
CMS Status Cervus elaphus barbarus: Appendix I



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Range Barbary stag (Cervus elaphus barbarus): 1996) Algeria, Morocco (reintroduced), Tunisia Tyrrhenian red deer (Cervus e. corsicanus): Corsica, Sardinia Western/Central/Eastern European red deer (Cervus e. elaphus, hippelaphus, hispanicus, montanus etc.): Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Hercegowina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Macedonia FYR, Moldavia, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia (mainly Kaliningrad area), Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands (Veluwe, Flevoland), Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom Caspian (Caucasus) red deer (Cervus elaphus maral): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia, Turkey Extralimital (introduced) populations in Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, USA.
Habitat Originally living in open woodland and grasslands, the red deer needs today large forests as a retreat to avoid hunting pressure and intense agriculture. In mountain ranges, the deer use during summer alpine meadows up to 2800 m above sea level, and in parts of the range they may be adapted to living in moorlands.
Wild population C. e. barbarus: about 5000 C. e. corsicanus: about 6000, mainly on Sardinia C. e. maral: more than 20,000 No global data available for the other "subspecies". There are at least 150'000 red deer in Germany, 100'000 in France, 30'000 in Spain and 26'000 in Switzerland, etc.
Zoo population Reported to ISIS (2008): C. e. barbarus: 72 C. e. corsicanus: 0 C. e. maral: 0 Other Western Palearctic subspecies or subspecific hybrids: 707 (the real number kept is much higher, as almost none of the Wildlife Parks in Central Europe contribute to ISIS).

In the Zoo

(Western Palearctic) Red deer


How this animal should be transported

Hard antlers should be removed before transport under proper restraint and, where required, sedation. No deer with antlers in velvet at a stage of growth which could be damaged easily should be transported where there is a risk of injury.

For air transport, Container Note 73 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations, should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Mehmet Karatay

Why do zoos keep this animal

The red deer is usually kept for educational purposes, most animals in Europe being kept by "Wildparks", i.e. institutions focussing on native species. Some of the subspecies are threatened with extinction however, and viable ex situ populations will contribute to the longer term survival of these subspecies. Consequently, regional conservation breeding programmes has been established for the subspecies barbarus, (and for bactrianus, macneilli and sibiricus).