Deer (Overview) - Sexing

A white (non-albino) Fallow buck (Dama dama), showing the antlers and penis sheath. - Credit: Marc Baldwin

Adult males (stags or bucks) of Red, Roe, Fallow, Sika and muntjac are easily separated from adult females (does or hinds) during the breeding (rutting) season by the presence of antlers. From birth, the pedicles from which antlers will grow begin to develop in males and from about 10 months old appendages easily identifiable as antlers can be seen. There are cases where females develop antlers (e.g. in older Roe does), usually small and unbranched, and where males fail to develop antlers, the so-called hummel deer, but both conditions are rare. Additionally, the males of some species (e.g. Red and Fallow) develop enlarged prominentia laryngea (Adam’s apple) and manes during the breeding season.

In Chinese water deer the males develop tusks, actually enlarge canine teeth, that protrude from either side of the upper jaw and may grow to several centimetres. Females have much smaller incisors that do not protrude. In some species there are additional features that can be used as a guide to sex – in Roe, for example, does have a tuft of hair at the base of the rump, called a tush, that is absent in bucks.

The "tush" hair tuft of a female Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). This tuft of hair is only present in females of this species. - Credit: Marc Baldwin

Males of all species are typically larger and heavier than females, although this can be difficult to assess without some basis for comparison, and exhibit a hair-covered penis sheath. In Red, Fallow and Sika, the sexes species spend much of the year apart, coming together during the breeding season. Bucks Roe, water deer and muntjac may associate more frequently with females throughout the year, although they’re generally not considered social species.

Deer nomenclature
Species Male Female Young
Red deer (Cervus elaphus) Stag Hind Calf
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) Buck Doe Kid
Fallow deer (Dama dama) Buck Doe Fawn
Sika deer (Cervus nippon) Stag Hind Calf
Muntjac deer (Muntiacus reevesi) Buck Doe Fawn
Chinese water deer (Hydropotes inermis) Buck Doe Fawn
Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) Bull Cow Calf