The Red Deer of Exmoor….A little background info.


Red deer calves  (red deer are not generally referred to as fawns) are born from mid June onwards on Exmoor, usually as singles although twins are not unknown. They are born dappled with pale spots to camouflage them under the trees and in the heather of the moor but these will have gone by mid August when the calf is more able to fend for itself.

The mother stays with the calf during the day and will sometimes give them away with her gruff warning bark if you stray too close to their hiding place, she won’t move very far away unless frightened by your presence so it is important to leave a youngster undisturbed if you are lucky enough to find one….Mum will be just there somewhere.

The ages of male deer are described as follows

Up to 1 year is a calf (red deer are not generally called fawns on Exmoor)

Up to 2 years is a Kobber, Knobbler or Brocket.

A Spire or Pricket is up to 3 years and a Staggart is up to 4 years old.

A stag or warrantable deer is over 4 and a Hart is older still. A “Hart Royal” has been hunted by royalty and lived to tell the tale!

Generally females are hearsts in the first year and young hinds in the second.

Both teeth and antlers can be used to age deer; the latter rather more useful in the field!

“All his rights and -so many- on top” refers to the basic antler of the four year old deer, with a “spire” or “beam” of approx. 35cm long bearing the “brow” spike and the “bay” alongside.

At 5 the stag will usually have the “trey”, and therefore full “rights”

At 6 generally his rights and 2 points “atop” on 1 horn, 3 points on the other and by 8 years will have 3 points atop of each horn. These two magnificent stags are at least 8 years old.

Nutrition and health affect antler development and so the above can only be a rough guide.

A “Nott stag” is one that has failed to grow antlers at all. He will often grow bigger and stronger than other stags because he does not have to use energy to grow antlers that are shed and regrown every year. He is perfectly able to sire offspring but never grows antlers himself.

Both older males and very old hinds grow tusks in the upper jaw . Their teeth deteriorate as they get older and are usually the cause of death in an aged animal….they literally starve to death as they can’t eat enough to sustain themselves. On Exmoor these deer are generally hunted and humanely killed before reaching this sorry state, and rarely live beyond 15 years of age.

With many thanks to Kevin Atkins for editing this page for us!

Other Deer Found on Exmoor

Of course the red deer is quite rightly the deer most associated with Exmoor but other species live here too!