Ireland has three species of wild deer – Red deer, Fallow deer, and Sika deer. Deer are Ireland's largest land mammal. While we do not know how many deer we have in Ireland (we have never counted them), we know they can be found in every county in Ireland.

Deer normally live in forests, mountains, and National Parks, but they can also be found in Parks such as the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Here The Irish Deer Commission tell us all about these beautiful animals.

Red Deer - An Fia Rua 

A Red Deer stag taken by Peter O'Toole in Killarney.

Red deer are our largest and the only native deer species to Ireland. The Red deer has a rich red colored coat, darkening down to a greyish brown in winter. A mature stag carries a large set of antlers.

A fully-grown Red stag can stand 120cm (48'') high at the shoulder and can weigh anything up to 240kg.Our Neolithic ancestors or Stone Age people brought red deer to Ireland in boats around 5000 years ago. They used deer for food and for clothing.

Red deer antlers are branching, they can have 12 or 14 points but sometimes more. 
A male is called a Stag, aFemale is called a Hind and new-born is called a Calf.

Japanese Sika - An Fia Seapánach

A Japanese Sika Stag taken by Joe Murphy in Wicklow.

The Co Wicklow Stag pictures above is in his summer coat which will change in Winter and is referred to as molting, which happens in the spring and autumn. Sika deer originated from the Japanese Islands in north eastern Asia and were introduced to Ireland in 1860.

The sika coat is light brown with spots in the summer, but changes to grey browns and almost black in winter. Sika are a small deer with stags measuring up to 80 cm at the shoulder and weighting between 50-60kg. Like Red deer, Sika have pointed or spike like antlers.

A male is called a Stag, a Female is called a Hind and a new-born is called a Calf.


Fallow Deer - An Fia Bui

A Fallow Deer in the Phoenix Park with thanks to Joe Murphy.

Fallow can be seen quite easily in the Phoenix Park in Dublin

This is the only Irish species of deer where the bucks have palmated (broad flattened) antlers. The coat coloration is quite variable including Black, White, Brown, and Yellowish etc. Common Fallow are light brown with white spots in summer and turns grey and darkens in the winter.

Fallow deer are an average size deer, between the Sika and the Red. With adult bucks weighing about 80kg. In the thirteenth century the Anglo-Normans introduced the Fallow deer to Ireland – 1244

A male is called a Buck, a Female is called a Doe and new-born is called a Fawn.  

The Breeding Season (known as the Rut) 

Peter O'Tooloe photoed these two stags fighting during The Rut.

The breeding season (rut) for deer begins in September and ends in late October. The timing of the rut is controlled by the length of daylight. During September, aggression between stags and bucks is more common. Mature stags and bucks are increasingly impatient with each other.

They roar (Red deer) or grunt (Fallow deer) or screech (Sika deer) to warn off other stags and bucks and to attract females. Each stag or buck is seeking to gather as many females as possible to breed with. During the rut, red and sika stags will make a wallow in soft earth, thresh the vegetation with his antlers, as well as roar and fight in contest with competing males. 

Stags and bucks will lock antlers and fight by pushing their opponent, normally the heaviest male wins the fight and not the male with the biggest antlers. Often stags and bucks can be injured during these fights. Once the rut is over stags and bucks become friends and live together until the next rut.  

The Giant Irish Deer – (Extinct)

The Giant Irish Deer is believed to have roamed the lowlands of central and eastern Ireland. Adult stags weighed over 1 tonne, whereas the females weighed about a half a tonne.

Both stags and hinds (females) stood at 1.8 metres  at the shoulder and the stags only bore antlers with a width of up to 4 metres, (weighting up to 45kg) are the largest antlers know to have existed on any deer species. They were palm like antlers, like those of Fallow deer, it is nearest living direct descendant.The giant 'Irish' deer was present in Ireland before and after the last great Ice Age.

However, as the climate warmed after the retreat of the last Ice Age. The change to arctic like weather conditions led to a significant change in the vegetation. The giant deer could not adapt at the same pace of the changing vegetation and could not migrate (move) elsewhere as Ireland was an island. Thus, their extinction occurred in Ireland.

If you want to know if there are deer in your area then download this pack and look for the signs!