The members of the family of the deer (Odocoelius) are the Cervidae, are cloven-hoofed ungulates that typically have compact torsos with long, thin legs and small tails, and most males have horns.


The family is quite large, and includes caribou, elk, muntjacs, and wapiti. Cervids are the second most diverse family after cattle (antelope, bison, buffalo, goat, sheep, etc.). There are about 50 species, but there is some disagreement about the classification of cervids. According to the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web (ADW), a well-supported phylogenetic and taxonomic history has not been established.

The deer is diurnal, mainly.

The three subfamilies and their genera and species are:

  • Capreolinae (deer, caribou, elk, and relatives)
    • Alces alces (elk, Eurasian elk) - 2 subspecies
    • Alces americanus (moose) - 2 subspecies
    • Blastocerus dichotomus (swamp deer)
    • Capreolus capreolus (Western roe deer, European roe deer) - 4 subspecies
    • Capreolus pygargus (siberian roe deer, eastern roe deer) - 4 subspecies
    • Hippocamelus antisensis (Huemul of the Northern Andes, Peruvian Guemal, Taruca)
    • Hippocamelus bisulcus (Guemal, Chilean Guemal, Huemul of the Southern Andes)
    • American Mazama (red brocket, south american red brocket) - 12 subspecies
    • Mazama bororo
    • Mazama bricenii
    • Mazama chunyi
    • Mazama gouazoubira - 11 subspecies
    • Mazama nana
    • Mazama pandora
    • Mazama rufina
    • Mazama themes - 3 subspecies
    • Odocoileus hemionus (venado mule) - 10 subspecies
    • Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed deer) - 38 subspecies
    • Ozotoceros bezoarticus (Deer of the Pampas) - 5 subspecies
    • Pudu mephistophiles (North pudú)
    • Pudu puda (South pudu)
    • Rangifer tarandus (rhine, caribou) - 14 subspecies
  • Cervinae (elk, muntjacs, and tufted deer)
    • Axis Axis (ciervo axis, chital)
    • Axis calamianensis (calamity deer)
    • Axis kuhlii (bawean deer)
    • Axis porcinus (pig deer)
    • Cervus elaphus (elk, wapiti, colorado ciervo) - 18 subspecies
    • Cervus nippon (sika deer) - 16 subspecies
    • Dama dama (Gamo) - 2 subspecies
    • Elaphodus cephalophus (tufted deer) - 4 subspecies
    • Elaphurus davidianus (Deer of Father David)
    • Muntiacus atherodes (Borneo Yellow Muntjac)
    • Muntiacus crinifrons (muntjac negro)
    • Muntiacus feae (Muntjac de Fea)
    • Muntiacus gongshanensis (Gongshan muntjac)
    • Muntiacus muntjak (red muntjac, indian muntjac) - 11 subspecies
    • Muntiacus puhoatensis (Puhoat muntjac)
    • Muntiacus putaoensis (leaf deer)
    • Muntiacus reevesi (muntjac de Reeves) - 3 subspecies
    • Muntiacus rooseveltorum (Roosevelt muntjac)
    • Muntiacus truongsonensis (Annamite muntjac)
    • Muntiacus vuquangensis (big neck muntjac)
    • Przewalskium albirostris (white lipped deer)
    • Rucervus duvaucelii (barasingha) - 3 subspecies
    • Rucervus eldii (Old deer) - 3 subspecies
    • Rucervus schomburgki (Schomburgk deer)
    • Russian alfredi (Visaya spotted deer)
    • Marianna deer (Philippine deer) - 4 subspecies
    • The timorensis deer (Java deer, Timor deer) - 7 subspecies
    • Rusa unicolor (sambar) - 7 subspecies
  • Hydropotinae
    • Hydropotes inermis (chinese water deer) - 2 subspecies


Deer species range from very large to very small. The smallest deer is the southern pudu, according to the ARKive project. It only weighs about 9 kilograms and grows to only 36 centimeters tall when fully grown.

The largest deer is the elk. It can grow up to 2 meters from hoof to shoulder and weigh around 820 kg.

All deer species have antlers, except for the Chinese water deer. Only males have horns, except for the caribou (reindeer). Both male and female caribou have horns. Antler horns grow from bony supporting structures called pedicelos. They are covered in "velvet", which is rich in nerves and blood vessels. When the horns are fully developed, the velvet dies and the deer rubs against a tree or other vegetation.

The Chinese water deer is the only species that does not shed its horns, because it does not have any. Instead, he has very long canine teeth that he uses to attract mates.

Musk deer are sometimes included in cervids, but are considered a separate family (Moschidae) with one genus and four species, including the rare and endangered Kashmir musk deer. They are found in central and northeast Asia. They differ from true deer in that they do not have antlers, but rather have vampire-like fangs. The males grow long fangs that appear to belong to the Halloween ghost. They use them to compete for females during mating season. It sells for $ 20.455 per pound ($ 45.000 per kilogram) on the black market, according to the IUCN.


Deer are very social and travel in groups called herds. The herd is usually led by a dominant male, although in some species the herds are segregated by sex. Sometimes the females will have their own herd and the males will have a separate herd. In other cases, a herd of females is watched over by a herd of males. Some caribou herds can have up to 100.000 members.

Most deer are active throughout the day, although their most active times are during sunrise and sunset. They spend their days looking for food.


The deer is found all over the world except Australia and Antarctica. While in other continents there is a great variety of deer, in Africa there is only one, the Barbary deer o from the Atlas (Cervus elaphus barbarus). He south pudu (Pudu puda) is originally from Chile and Argentina. The white-tailed deer is common in North and South America.


Deer are found in many different ecosystems. They live in wetlands, deciduous forests, grasslands, rainforests, arid scrub, and mountains. Sometimes when human civilizations get too close to their habitats, deer even adapt and are able to feel comfortable in urban settings.

There are many species of cervids.


Deer are herbivores; they only eat vegetation. For the most part, the deer diet consists of grass, small shrubs and leaves, although they will forage in garbage cans and gardens if they cannot find the vegetation they need elsewhere.

Deer have a main stomach and three "false stomachs." Like cows, they chew their bolus to fully digest their food.


Deer have many natural enemies or predators. Animals that like to kill and eat deer are wild canids, or dog-like animals such as wolves and coyotes. Large cats such as cougars, jaguars, and lynx also hunt deer.

Bears kill and eat deer and, in tropical and subtropical forests, large snakes, such as anacondas, and crocodiles, such as alligators, attack deer for food.

Because they have so many enemies, deer have developed good hearing, good eyesight, and the ability to run very fast. It takes a skilled predator to catch a deer.


Although not common, some deer are monogamous, such as the European roe deer. When a deer reproduces depends on where it lives. Deer in temperate zones breed in late fall or early winter. Deer that live in lower latitudes breed from late spring to early summer. Deer that live in tropical climates mate when they want to, which can happen several times a year.

Deer carry their young for a gestation period of 180 to 240 days. For the northern and southern white-tailed deer, gestation lasts between 193 and 205 days. Generally, the larger the deer, the longer the mother carries it in her womb. Deer usually have one to three young at a time and these young are called fawns. Some of the large baby deer are also called calves

A baby deer, or fawn.

Deer range in color from dark brown to very light brown, and fawns are born with white spots to help camouflage them from predators. Fawns are weaned between two and five months of age. Deer cannot fully mature unless they reach a certain size, although their size varies depending on the species. In general, most deer live between 11 and 12 years, although many die much earlier due to predators or environmental hazards such as car collisions.

State of conservation

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), many species of deer are currently in danger of extinction. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species includes the Calamari deer, Bawean deer, Anhui musk deer, hog deer and Persian fallow deer. Père David's deer is extinct in the wild and can now only be found in captive populations.

The deer is an animal that is always attentive to what is happening around it.

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