Fallow deer

Wild fallow deer are rare in Norway, but a number of different populations have become established as a result of animals escaping from farms. Fallow deer males are called bucks, while the females are does.


The fallow deer is the rarest member of the deer family in Norway, and the species that people are least familiar with. It is much larger than a roe deer, but slightly smaller than a red deer, and is only found in a few places in East Norway.  

It is easy to distinguish the fallow deer from the other members of the deer family, as it has small, pale spots along it’s flanks. It also usually has a long, white stripe along its abdomen, which stands out against it’s brown or gingery coat.  

Fallow deer vary much more in appearance than the other members of the deer family, so some individuals may be covered in chalk-white spots, while others have virtually none.  

As well as only being found in small areas of East Norway, the fallow deer is extremely shy and quick to run away if it sees humans or predators. It is therefore rare to encounter a fallow deer even in areas where they live.  


Photo: Marek Szczepanek med CC BY-SA 4.0-lisens.


The fallow deer is only found in small areas of Norway, and there are currently only wild populations in Østfold east of the Glomma River.  

The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre previously classified the fallow deer as ‘high risk’ on the Norwegian Black List, but has since downgraded it to ‘low risk’ because it does not really spread very far, as well as having no known impact on the ecosystem.  

There is reason to believe, therefore, that by and large the fallow deer will continue to live in Østfold in the future.  

In summer, the fallow deer prefers to live in the open cultural landscape, while it moves into the forest in the winter months.  

Photo: Stian Holmen. 


The fallow deer mainly eats grass and leaves in the summer, but has to eat any nuts, berries and bark it can find when winter comes. It prefers to graze early in the morning and at dusk.  

Photo: Stian Holmen. 


It is easy to see the difference between the fallow deer’s coat and that of other members of the deer family, as it has much more beautiful and interesting markings. This is because fallow deer in Norway come from farms, where strong markings do not increase an animal’s chances of being caught by a predator.  

In nature, such high-contrast markings would make the animal more visible to wolves and lynx, and fallow deer with less distinctive markings would have a greater chance of surviving. Over many years, this would result in animals with a more neutral coat having more offspring, and the species would gradually acquire lower-contrast markings.  

Photo: Stian Holmen. 

This article has been written by Nicklas Iversen, a former nature guide for Visitor Centre Carnivore Flå.