Roe Deer

Capreolus capreolus


(male) Shoulder height 25-36 inches (64-92 cm). Weight 44-81 pounds (20-37 kg). Largest animals are found in eastern part of the species range. Females are about 20 percent smaller than males.

The smallest and most elegant native deer in Europe. Coloration is rich reddish-brown in summer, with a gray face, white chin and black muzzle band. Rump patch is obscure. Winter coat is grayish-brown, with two white throat patches and a prominent white rump patch of erectile hairs that can expand under stress to form a large white disk. Tail is small and white, invisible against the rump.

A few melanistic (blackish) roe deer occur in the Netherlands and northwestern Germany, but are rare elsewhere, as are other color variations such as black-faced, albino, black and white, and brown and white. Normal antlers of a mature buck consist of a main beam directed upward, with a lower forward tine and a higher rearward tine making three points to a side. (However, non-typical antlers with 4-5 points on a side are not uncommon.) Antlers have a very rough burr (coronet) around the base, and grow so closely together that the coronets usually touch in mature animals.

The skull is broad, with a compressed muzzle. The female does not grow antlers, but occasionally will grow coronets without any antler growth. In winter, females grow a prominent anal tuft of long hair that may be mistaken for a tail.


Usually solitary, but tends to form small groups in winter. During the rut in July and August, a buck will be with a single doe (unlike other deer species, which escort several) and will fight intruding males fiercely. The roe deer is the only deer species with delayed implantation, the fetal development not starting until December or January. Fawns (usually two, range is 1-3) are born in the spring. Normal lifespan in the wild is 10-12 years, with maximum about 17 years. Roe deer are delicate in captivity, surviving only an average of 3-1/2 years, with seven years the longest recorded. Both a browser and a grazer. Active mainly at night, spending the day in cover. Senses are well developed. Excellent swimmer. Shy but curious. Both sexes have a doglike bark when alarmed. The female makes a whistling noise during mating season and to call her fawns.


Several subspecies have been listed, including capreolustranssylvanicuscanus and whittali (all Europe), armenius (Anatolia), and coxi (headwaters of the Tigris River in northern Iraq). We do not separate them.


European roe deer have adapted well to civilization, with numbers increasing and range expanding. About 500,000 are harvested each year in Germany alone, with the population remaining stable.


The roe deer is Europe's most common and popular big game animal. A really good roe deer head is probably valued as much among Europeans as any other European trophy. Best time to find an outstanding head is during the rut in late July and early August; however, in areas where high crops are grown, early May can be better, because later on the growth is too high for these small deer to be seen. Best time for a prime cape is June-August. The bucks start to shed their antlers in November. The best trophies are taken in eastern Europe, Britain and Sweden. A large caliber is not needed for these small animals, those in the .243 class being just about right.


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