My felted picture of this Red Deer was inspired by a wonderful photograph taken by Don MacKinnon, a local landscape and wildlife photographer. Other examples of his work can be found on his Facebook page.
The red deer (Cervus elaphus) is one of the largest deer species. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, Iran, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Red deer have been introduced to other areas, including Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina. In many parts of the world, the meat (venison) from red deer is used as a food source.
Red deer are ruminants, characterized by a four-chambered stomach. Genetic evidence indicates the red deer as traditionally defined is a species group, rather than a single species, although it remains disputed as to exactly how many species the group includes. The closely related and slightly larger American elk or wapiti, native to North America and eastern parts of Asia, had been regarded as a subspecies of red deer, but recently it has been established as a distinct species. It is probable that the ancestor of all red deer, including wapiti, originated in central Asia and resembled sika deer.
Although at one time red deer were rare in parts of Europe, they were never close to extinction. Reintroduction and conservation efforts, such as in the United Kingdom and Portugal, have resulted in an increase of red deer populations, while other areas, such as North Africa, have continued to show a population decline.
Deer are amazing animals – here are a few deer facts – we bet you don’t know all of them!
- Red deer are the biggest indigenous land mammals remaining wild in the UK, after other bigger mammals became extinct.
- There are many different species of deer, indigenous species of which can be found in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
- There are 6 species of wild deer in the UK. Red Deer, Roe Deer, Fallow Deer, Reeves’ Muntjac, Chinese Water Deer and Sika deer. The Red deer (Cervus elaphus) and the European Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) are the only indigenous species.
- Deer (singular and plural) are ruminant mammals belonging to the family Cervidae.
- Deer are famous for their antlers, but it is only the males that have them. They start growing a new set every spring at a rate of up to 2.5cm per day, before shedding them in the winter.
- Antlers are used by males in the mating season, or rut as it’s called, to fend off competing males.
- Different species have different names for males and females. Red Deer are called Stag and Hind, whereas Roe deer are Buck and Doe. A group of deer is called a herd.
- An average adult Exmoor stag weighs 135kg and a hind seldom over 90kg. Adult males stand at around 115cm at the shoulder and are the largest wild land mammal in England.
- In the Harry Potter series, a Stag and a Doe appeared as the Patronus’ of Harry’s parents James and Lily, as well as Harry himself. And Professor Snape of course. Always.
- A black stag is the sigil of the House Baratheon on fictional TV series Game of Thrones.