Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
The European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), also known as the western roe deer, chevreuil, or roe deer, is a Eurasian species of deer.
It is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. Roe deer are widespread in Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from the British Isles to the Caucasus.
The roe deer is a relatively small deer, with a body length of 95–135 cm (3.1–4.4 ft), a shoulder height of 65–75 cm (2.1–2.5 ft), and a weight of 15–35 kg (33–77 lb). It has rather short, erect antlers and a reddish body with a grey face. Its hide is golden red in summer, darkening to brown or even black in winter, with lighter undersides and a white rump patch; the tail is very short (2–3 cm or 0.8–1.2 in), and barely visible. Only the males have antlers. The first and second set of antlers are unbranched and short (5–12 cm or 2.0–4.7 in), while older bucks in good conditions develop antlers up to 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long with two or three, rarely even four, points. When the male’s antlers begin to regrow, they are covered in a thin layer of velvet-like fur which disappears later on after the hair’s blood supply is lost. Males may speed up the process by rubbing their antlers on trees, so that their antlers are hard and stiff for the duels during the mating season. Unlike most cervids, roe deer begin regrowing antlers almost immediately after they are shed.
Behaviour and lifecycle
The roe deer attains a maximum lifespan (in the wild) of 10 years. When alarmed, it will bark a sound much like a dog and flash out its white rump patch. Rump patches differ between the sexes, with the white rump patches heart-shaped on females and kidney-shaped on males. Males may also bark or make a low grunting noise. Females (does) make a high-pitched “pheep” whine to attract males during the rut (breeding season) in July and August. Initially, the female goes looking for a mate and it is common for her to lure the buck back into her territory before mating. The roe deer is territorial, and whilst the territories of a male and a female might overlap, other roe deer of the same sex are excluded unless they are the doe’s offspring of that year.
The polygamous roe deer males clash over territory in early summer and mate in early fall. During courtship, when the males chase the females, they often flatten the underbrush, leaving behind areas of the forest in the shape of a figure eight called ‘roe rings’. Males may also use their antlers to shovel around fallen foliage and soil as a way of attracting a mate. Roebucks enter rutting inappetence during the July and August breeding season. Females are monoestrous and after delayed implantation usually give birth the following June, after a 10-month gestation period, typically to two spotted fawns of opposite sexes. The fawns remain hidden in long grass from predators until they are ready to join the rest of the herd; they are suckled by their mother several times a day for around three months. Roe deer adults often abandon their young if they sense or smell that an animal or human has been near it. Young female roe deer can begin to reproduce when they are around 16 months old.
In popular culture
- The world-famous deer Bambi (the eponymous character of the books Bambi, A Life in the Woods, and its sequel Bambi’s Children, by Felix Salten) is originally a roe deer. When the story was adapted into the animated feature film Bambi, by the Walt Disney Studios, Bambi was changed to a white-tailed deer. This change was made owing to the whitetail being a more familiar species to the mainstream US viewers. Consequently, the setting was also changed to a North American wilderness.
- A roe deer is also said to have helped Genevieve of Brabant to get food for herself and her child after having had to leave their home due to malicious slander.
- Real-Life ‘Unicorn’ Found; Deer Has Extremely Rare Deformity