The red deer belongs to the deer family and is therefore a mammal. Only the male has antlers. The red deer is the most common deer in our country, which is why it is simply called “Hirsch” in German-speaking countries. This is imprecise but very common.
A deer is actually a male animal. The female is called hind or “kahlwild” because she has no antlers, i.e. a bald head. The cub is a calf. The red deer is the largest free-living wild animal in our forests. It grows up to two meters long and weighs over 100 kilograms. The males are usually larger than the females.
How do red deer live?
Red deer eat grass, herbs, buds, and young branches of trees and shrubs. They also eat acorns, beechnuts, chestnuts, fruit, and various mushrooms. They also dig up crops such as turnips and potatoes with their front legs. Farmers don’t like that. The stomach of red deer is so robust that it can even eat and digest tree bark and moss. Chewing on the tree bark is very damaging to the trees.
Like our dairy cows, red deer are ruminants. So they only chew their food roughly and then let it slide into a kind of forestomach. Later they lie down comfortably, regurgitate the food, chew it extensively, and then swallow it into the correct stomach.
Adult red deer need only fear bears or packs of wolves. They flee when possible or defend themselves with their antlers. Young animals are sometimes eaten by lynx or eagles.
Red deer like to form groups called packs. Usually, either only females or only males live in a pack. They only come together to mate.
How do red deer breed?
Mating season is also called rutting season. It is always in September and October. The males then emit loud and deep calls. This roar can be heard from afar. Then they fight for the females. They snag their antlers and try to push themselves away from the rutting ground. The strongest deer drives away all rivals over time. He is also called the top dog and can now mate alone with the females of the pack.
Pregnancy lasts a little over seven months. The mother chases away her older calf before it is born. Usually, the mother only gives birth to a single animal. It weighs between five and 13 kilograms. After just a few hours, it can get up and follow its mother. With her it sucks milk. It is also said that the mother suckles the calf. Therefore, the deer belong to the mammals. The suckling period lasts at least half a year. When a calf is about 6 years old, it can give birth again of its own accord.
What are red deer antlers like?
The adult red deer males have large, branched antlers. Young males whose antlers have not yet branched out are also called “Petish”. However, the antlers do not grow throughout life. It is shed every year after mating and then grows back again, but even larger. The old stags grow up to five kilograms of antler bones in just four months.
When the antlers have finished growing, their blood supply is cut off. It then dies off but remains attached to the head. This is similar to our fingernails, which have also died. The antlers are completely shed again next spring. The deer hit the trees with their antlers, causing them to break off. Large antlers also fall off on their own.
The antlers are very popular with hunters as a hunting trophies. The larger and more branched it is, the more popular it is. Often the tips of the antlers are counted and the stag is named after it: for example an eight-pointer or a twelve-pointer.