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Fallow deerFallow deer Deer are long-legged, two-toed ungulates—mammals with hooves instead of claws. Living in woodlands, forests, tundra or grasslands, deer feed on leaves, grass, twigs and shoots. There are 47 species of deer, ranging in size from tiny forest-dwelling creatures less than 0.5 metres (1.6 feet) tall, to the mighty moose, one of the world's largest land animals. All are ruminants: their stomachs are divided into compartments that break down grasses, a tough food to digest, in stages. Male deer, called bucks (or stags if they are large), have antlers made of bone, which they shed each year. Female deer are called hinds or does. Young deer, called fawns, are born with white spots on their fur, which they lose as they grow.

White-tailed deer buckWhite-tailed deer buck
A mule deer buck with velvet-covered antlersA mule deer buck with velvet-covered antlers


Antlers start to grow as a spongy material. They are covered in skin, called velvet. Before the rut, or mating season, the antlers harden under the velvet to become bone. The velvet is then rubbed off, leaving dead bone. After the rut, the antlers fall off at the base.

Each species of deer has its own characteristic antler shape. Fallow deer and moose antlers have a broad central portion with branches, called tines, spreading out like fingers on a hand. Young males of many deer have single spikes for antlers.

The elk (also called a wapiti) is not the same animal as the Eurasian elk, which is called a moose in North America.

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