Believe it or not, there are tons of interesting facts about deer!
We have tons of deer in our new neighborhood, and they love visiting our bird feeders. I know we should try and encourage them to move on and save some for the birds, but I just love watching them!
Whether you live in a suburban neighborhood or a rural area, chances are you have a herd of deer somewhere nearby. In my opinion, they’re one of the coolest mammals on earth.
Here are 11 Fun Facts About Deer!
#1. Deer antlers are unique (and incredible!)
You might be surprised to learn that deer are the ONLY creature that has antlers! Animals like mountain goats, rhinos, and elephants have horns or tusks.
Deer, on the other hand, have antlers that fall off each winter and grow back in the spring. In fact, antlers are the fastest-growing type of tissue on the planet!
The soft hair on new antlers is called velvet. It’s full of nerves and blood vessels that allow the deer’s antlers to grow to enormous lengths in just one season. For example, elk antlers can grow up to an inch per day!
#2. Some deer species are GIGANTIC.
The largest recorded deer species EVER recorded was the Irish Elk.
Although it went extinct over 7,000 years ago, its remains look remarkably similar to modern deer. Except, of course, for the fact that it’s enormous!
The average male Irish Elk stood about 2.1m tall (6ft 11in) at the shoulder, and its antlers could reach 12 FEET (4m) across! Females were smaller than males but still larger than any living deer species.
Today, the largest deer species alive is the moose. This massive species can weigh up to 1,200 lbs (820 kg) and stands 2m (6ft) tall at the shoulder. Their antlers, which are flat and wide, can be up to 83 inches (210 cm) across!
#3. Some deer species are tiny.
The Pudu is the smallest deer species ever recorded. It lives in the tropical rainforests of the southern hemisphere, particularly in Chile.
A fully grown Pudu stands only 12 to 17 inches (30 to 43 cm) tall. Besides being very small, these deer are also impossibly cute – especially the babies!
Other small deer species include Muntjacs, Chinese Water Deer, and the Pygmy Brocket Deer.
#4. There are WAY more deer species than you think.
Seriously, there are so many different kinds!
In fact, forty-three unique species of deer are living today.
You can find them in nearly every habitat and on every continent (except for Antarctica).
In North America, you’re most likely to see White-tailed Deer or Mule Deer. Other common types are Caribou (also known as reindeer) and Moose.
In addition to the number of species of deer, some species have a mind-boggling population. White-tailed deer, for example, had an estimated US population of 29.5 million as of 2017. Unfortunately, many other species’ populations are declining at an alarming rate due to habitat loss and predation.
#5. Some types of deer look bizarre.
Those of us who live in North America and Canada are used to White-tailed Deer, Roe Deer, and maybe even Moose. And everyone knows about Reindeer, whether you’ve seen them up close or just pulling Santa’s sleigh.
But there are many species of deer that are interesting, unusual, and downright odd!
Here are just a few:
- Chinese Water Deer – This species is native to central China and doesn’t have antlers. Instead, they have fangs! Because of their interesting teeth, they’ve been nicknamed Vampire Deer. Spooky!
- Pampas Deer – Native to South America, Pampas Deer are unique because they have almost no fear of predators. When they’re confronted, they almost always stand their ground and grunt, stomp, or whistle until the predator moves on.
- Indian Hog Deer – As you might guess, this deer species is native to India. It got its name from its short legs and rolling gait, which makes it look sort of like a wild hog!
#6. Reindeer are the ONLY domesticated deer species.
Of all the species of deer in the world, only Reindeer (called Caribou in North America) are semi-domesticated. This means they are bred specifically for use by humans. Reindeer are an essential economic resource throughout most of the arctic.
Herds of reindeer and Caribou can reach into the hundreds of thousands! But, despite their vast population, they’re still at risk from predators like Polar Bears, Grey Wolves, and Brown Bears. Wolf packs have been known to follow and hunt members of a single herd year-round!
Check out this domesticated herd of reindeer moving in a spiral pattern as they are herded to new pastures!
#7. Most deer species are total jocks.
Deer are incredible athletes!
They can run up to 30mph (48kph), stand on their hind legs, and they can even swim!
Seriously, there are plenty of videos of deer swimming across fast-moving rivers and lakes. Deer have been known to swim across bays from one shore to another throughout their range.
#8. Deer have a fantastic sense of smell.
It’s up to 1,000 times more sensitive than a human! They can also recognize up to six distinct smells at one time, meaning they can forage for food and sniff out predators without missing a beat.
Their sense of smell is so good, deer can detect humans up to half-mile away.
#9. Their ears are entirely different than ours.
Most deer species, including White-tailed Deer, have about the same level of hearing as we do. I was incredibly surprised to learn this deer fact, as I assumed their hearing was much better than a human’s!
But what’s unique about deer is that they use their ears to lock onto sounds like a homing beacon! So, if you crunch a twig, they can point their ears right at you. From there, the deer can pick out any little noise coming from where you stand.
#10. A deer’s eyesight is WAY better than yours.
In my opinion, the most fascinating sense a deer uses is its eyesight.
First, it’s five times better than humans. And if that wasn’t enough, their range of vision is between 250 and 270 degrees, where we only have a 180-degree view.
Deer are particularly sensitive to movement, and their eyes can pick up even the slightest rustle of grass. But they need multiple angles to get a 3-D picture of an object. So if you’ve ever seen a deer moving its head back and forth or bobbing up and down, it was probably trying to catch these angles!
On top of all this, they have excellent night vision. It’s estimated that a deer can see up to 150 yards in the dark!
#11. Baby deer are called fawns.
Ok, so most people know this fact, but there are also lots of other interesting things about baby deer!
For example, have you ever seen a tiny newborn fawn all alone and wondered where its mother was? Interestingly, female deer actually leave their babies alone to protect them!
Fawns are born with no discernable scent, making it hard for predators to find them. If the mother stayed with her baby all the time, it might actually put them in more danger!
This survival strategy is one of the reasons you should NEVER touch a baby deer if you find it in the wild. Even though they look cute and cuddly, you put the fawn at risk of being eaten by a predator if you touch it. Instead, it’s best to observe from a distance!
What are your favorite facts about deer?
Let us know in the comments!