Fallow deer are the most numerous species in the New Forest at around 1200. It is not truly native to the UK like the Red and Roe and was brought into the country in large numbers by the Normans in the 11th century.
Fallow are intermediate in size between the Red and the Roe. The males (bucks) are 84 to 94cm at shoulder whilst the females (does) are 73 to 91cm at shoulder. Unlike the other Forest deer Fallow have four pelage variations. Over 90% are the common variety with the familiar tan/fawn colour with white spotting which becomes long and grey with indistinct spots in the winter. They have a longer tail than other species together with a distinctive white rump patch outlined with a black horse-shoe. The Menil variety is paler, lacks the black bordered rump and keeps its white spots throughout the year. The Melanistic variety is almost entirely black with no white coloration anywhere and there is also a white variety which can be white to sandy coloured and becomes more white at adulthood. It is common for people to think of these as albino but this is not the case as they lack the distinctive pink eyes of a true albino. Fallow deer can live 16 years but this is rare and bucks generally have a lifespan of 8 – 10 years on the Forest.
Their antlers are also different to other species and this makes them easily distinguishable. They are palmate in shape i.e. shaped like the palm of a hand and do not have distinct branches like other species. Antlers are cast during April and May with mature bucks casting first.
They prefer to populate mature broadleaf woodland with an understory, open heaths and forest lawns. They prefer to graze on grasses although trees, holly and dwarf shrub shoots will be taken during autumn and winter. Like other species, they are active throughout 24 hours and tend to make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness. Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk and during the day time they spend considerable time laying up to ruminate between feeds. Outside of the rut, groups of adult males tend to herd together remaining apart from the herds of females and younger deer. Does with fawns give a short bark when alarmed.
Their rut occurs during October and November when the bucks groan tremendously (a deep belching sound). In the majority of Fallow herds, the bucks maintain and defend a traditional rutting stand. In others a temporary rutting stand is maintained to attract sufficient does to herd them into a harem. Their rutting stands is marked out by thrashing trees, wallowing and scrape marking. Bucks advertise their presence by constantly moving around in the area of the stand whilst groaning. The same rutting stands may be used each year. Adult does give birth to a single fawn in June after a gestation of 8 months.
View the British Deer Society – Fallow Deer Distribution Survey
Fallow Buck rutting call