Over 60 species of deer live in various habitats around the world. We've listed the major types of deer, from the friendliest species to the most elusive ones. This guide will also provide a detailed description of each species or breed, along with fun facts.
Related: For more information on deer, check out these deer facts about these woodland gems!
Fun Fact: White-tailed deer can swim for long distances at 13 miles per hour. One might see them swimming in nearby lakes or rivers.
The White-Tailed Deer has a distinctive tail with a white underside. In times of danger, the deer raises its tail like a flag, warning others. The White-Tailed Deer lives anywhere from southern Canada to South America. Moreover, the species has successfully adapted to coexist with humans; one can see them in suburban areas foraging in gardens.
Like humans, the White-Tailed Deer follows a routine, but it is a crepuscular animal; it becomes active at twilight. This adaptation allows them to avoid predators. The species has a four-chambered stomach, helping them digest plants.
It’s also the popular game-hunting animal in North America, and deer hunting, although sometimes controversial, helps maintain population control.
Fun Fact: Mule deer have oversized ears that make them look like mules, hence the name. Their ears can reach up to 10 inches long, helping them detect the slightest sounds in their surroundings.
The Mule Deer is a common animal species living in the rugged landscapes of western North America. During the fall mating season, males show off their unique antlers, which split and fork as they grow.
Moreover, the Mule Deer makes a bounding leap1 called "stotting," a defense mechanism when sensing danger. They also observe selective feeding habits and typically consume a combination of shrubs, grasses, and occasional fruits or nuts. In the winter season, they may resort to drinking twigs and bark to survive.
Fun Fact: Elk have huge and heavy antlers, are four feet long, and weigh 40 pounds. These antlers undergo an annual cycle of shedding and regrowth; this process is one of the fastest among all bones in the animal kingdom.
They have deep brown colorations on their neck, head, belly, and legs, while they have a lighter tan on their backsides and rump.
Moreover, elks prefer to move in groups, though females bring their young to form an exclusive group with other females. At the same time, males favor sticking to smaller clusters or even flying solo. During mating season, males engage in antler locking and bugling calls.
Fun Fact: Moose are the largest members of the deer family. Despite their size and antlers, they are also capable swimmers who can swim for up to 12 miles (19 kilometers) at a time, propelling themselves with their legs and hooves.
Bull Moose also have antlers that can reach up to six feet long, which they shed in the winter. In spring, new antlers begin to grow in preparation for the mating season, where bulls battle other bulls for the right to mate.
Despite being herbivores, moose are dangerous animals, particularly during mating season or if a female perceives a threat to her calf.
Fun Fact: Red deer have antlers reaching up to 3.3 feet long, which they shed and regrow annually, the biggest and fastest-growing antlers of any deer species2.
The Red Deer have a reddish-brown summer coat, which changes into a muted gray-brown in the winter. Moreover, they are one of the largest deer species. Their habitats are in Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. Humans have introduced them to Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina.
The Red Deer is another crepuscular animal. During their autumn rutting season, male deer, or stags, battle other stags, locking antlers and jostling for dominance and the opportunity to mate with females. They also emit eerie 'roaring' calls that pierce the autumn air.
Fun Fact: Roe deer can jump up to 6 meters (20 feet) in a single bound due to their powerful hind legs and lightweight bodies. These agile creatures can navigate dense forests and evade predators easily.
Unlike other species, roe deer prefer solitude or banding together with family members. These deer also live in the green expanses of Europe and Asia. However, like other deer, they become active during dawn and dusk. They blend in easily with their woodland surroundings due to their reddish and grey-brown coats.
Fun Fact: During the mating season, male fallow deer perform "lekking," which involves gathering and engaging in competitive performances to attract females. The displays include impressive posturing, vocalizing, and sparring with their antlers. Essentially, one can compare this behavior to a "deer dance-off."
The fallow deer has unique broad, shovel-like antlers. Originating from Europe, their habitat extends to the United States, Australia, and South America. Their coat turns into an unspotted darker shade.
Unlike other deer species, fallow deer are social animals often seen in groups. They are selective grazers and feed on grasses, leaves, bark, and heather. However, bucks prefer solitude outside of the breeding season.
Fun Fact: Reindeer are unique among all deer species since males and females grow antlers.
Reindeer live in the Arctic and sub-Arctic tundra and navigate these terrains easily3. Driven by hunger, reindeer migrate for 3,000 miles every year, one of the longest journeys among land mammals. They eat lichen, mosses, grasses, willow, and birch leaves, which they forage from beneath the snow.
Moreover, their noses warm the freezing air before it reaches their lungs, making breathing easier in icy conditions. Their eyes adjust to varying light levels, changing color between summer and winter.
Fun Fact: The Persian Fallow Deer has a distinct appearance and has frequently appeared in ancient Persian art. People believe this deer has inhabited the region for thousands of years, a living piece of history.
The Persian Fallow Deer is native to Mesopotamia. It has flat, palmate antlers up to 70 cm wide, a distinctive feature of mature males. Moreover, this rare species changes color with the seasons. During the summer, their reddish-brown coat features white spots, while in winter, it turns a uniform grey-brown, possibly for camouflage. Their long tail has a black stripe tipped with a tuft of black.
Fun Fact: Sika deer are expert swimmers in coastal areas and islands. They can swim long distances, cross rivers, and move between islands.
The Sika Deer is indigenous to East Asia. Stags stand between 70 to 95 cm at the shoulder, and their antlers can reach 80 cm. While the females are slightly smaller, they have a calm and gentle demeanor.
The Sika Deer's coat turns from a rich reddish-brown in the summer to a darker grey in colder months. Moreover, unlike other deer, the Sika Deer can communicate with over ten sounds, from soft whistles to high-pitched screams.
Fun Fact: The Sambar deer is the largest deer species in Asia, and it also has a preorbital gland on its face that produces a strong-smelling substance. The deer uses this scent to mark its territory and communicate with other members of its herd. Only the Sambar deer has this gland.
The Sambar Deer inhabits various regions in the Indian subcontinent, South China, and Southeast Asia. Additionally, male stags weigh approximately 546 kg (1,200 lbs). On the other hand, the female deer, or does, weigh only about 260 kg (570 lbs). Their antlers typically have three points, with some exceptions. Besides their deep, dark brown coat, they have a mane around their neck and shoulders.
Sambar Deer are solitary and become primarily active at night. However, they may congregate in small groups if much food is available. During the day, they hide themselves in thick vegetation to avoid detection. However, at dawn and dusk, they emerge to feed on leaves, fruits, and various vegetation types. They can also swim to escape predators.
Fun Fact: Chital deer do not hesitate to enter the water, unlike other species. They can cross rivers and lakes to find new food sources or to escape predators. Due to their streamlined bodies and robust legs, these deer can effortlessly move through the water. In addition, they go by Axis deer or spotted deer.
The Chital is native to the woodlands of India. It has reddish-brown fur with white spots that remain throughout its life. Males have three-pronged antlers measuring up to 75 centimeters, which they use to fight other males during mating season.
Interestingly, the Chital deer enjoys a symbiotic relationship with langur monkeys. As the monkeys pick fruit from trees, some leaves and fruits fall on the ground, which the deer eat.
Fun Fact: The marsh deer is the largest in South America. They stand 1.2 meters at the shoulder and weigh around 150 kilograms. Also, their long legs and slender bodies help them cut across through the wetlands and marshes of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru.
They have long, hooved legs, and their coat is a vibrant reddish-brown, which becomes richer during the colder seasons.
Moreover, marsh deer exhibit sexual dimorphism; males are bulkier and have branched antlers. They are also skilled swimmers, navigating their watery habitat to evade predators. Additionally, marsh deer prefer to live alone, although they occasionally gather in small groups.
Fun Fact: The Barasingha, or the swamp deer, are good swimmers, often found in marshes, swamps, and shallow lakes. The deer's long legs and webbed hooves make them well-adapted to life near water.
The Barasingha is native to the wetlands of India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Males have antlers that can grow up to 75 cm long and often have more than three tines per beam. "Barasingha" is a Hindu word that translates to "12-tined."
Moreover, their elongated hooves prevent them from sinking into the marshy terrain. The Barasingha also lives in herds comprising up to sixty individuals, taking refuge in tall grasses and brushwood during the midday sun.
Fun Fact: The tufted deer, also known as the "Dracula deer," has elongated upper canines that resemble fangs. However, these "fangs" only appear up to two inches long in males. Despite their striking appearance, these fangs are primarily for display during territorial disputes rather than hunting or feeding.
The tufted deer live in the forests of China and Myanmar; their names come from the wisp of black hair on their forehead. While males have antlers, female tufted deer have small, bony knobs instead of typical antlers. Despite their size, Tufted deer can jump up to heights of 1.8 meters.
Fun Fact: The black-tailed deer can cross rivers and lakes, allowing them to venture beyond the forest.
The black-tailed deer lives in central California to British Columbia. Its name derives from its black tail, contrasting with its grayish-brown coat.
Their antlers often branch into a forked design, each branch forming a distinct "tine." Moreover, they prefer to live in old-growth and second-growth forests. However, they can also thrive in suburban areas with ample cover.
Black-tailed deer are browsers, consuming leaves, twigs, and berries. They may feed on ornamental shrubs or garden plants if they wander into suburban areas.
Fun Fact: These deer are also called "vampire deer." They might lack antlers, but they have three-centimeter-long fangs. Moreover, these deer use their fangs to settle territorial disputes or fight during the mating season.
The Chinese water deer lives in China and Korea. This relatively small deer measures between 75 to 100 cm long and weighs around 11-18 kg. During the day, this deer hides in tall grass but emerges at night. It can also swim, and one might find them near reed beds, river shores, and marshlands. Moreover, it eats grasses and aquatic plants, though it won't turn down the occasional small mammal or bird.
Additionally, the Chinese water deer changes its coat with the seasons; in the summer, it wears a brown or tan coat, which turns into a subtle gray in the winter.
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