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The Red Deer Rut

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Red Deer Stag bellowing by Jai Grieve

Deep in the forests and deer parks all round the UK, tensions and testosterone levels are rising.  It's time for the red deer rut.  The rutting season is a period when the biggest and strongest male (stag) rounds up a group of females (hinds) for mating.  Of course every other male deer has the same ambition, but there's only so many females to go around.

In order to maintain control over a group of females the dominant stag must constantly drive away rivals.  The stag announces his superiority over other males by constantly bellowing out an echoing roar, which sounds something like a cross between a chainsaw and a burp.  I guess if we had to shout for days on end like these guys do we'd end up making a similar noise.

Sometimes shouting is not enough, and when contenders approach the females they need to be chased off.  Occasionally fights between males can break out, and this can lead to some serious clashing of those magnificent antlers

Red deer are our largest native land mammals.  They can weigh up to 190kg and they're one of only two native species of deer in the UK.  The other being the Roe deer.

The stags frequently urinate in muddy puddles and then roll in it.  This is their equivalent of after shave and their fur is often caked in this smelly mud.  To make themselves appear larger and more impressive they often sweep their heads through long grass and bracken to scoop up the vegetation, which they leave heaped on their antlers.

Don't Get Stuck in a Rut

If you go to watch the rutting deer make sure you keep at a safe distance.  If you take a dog be sure to keep it on a lead.  You definitely DON'T want to get between the stag and his females.  Those antlers are sharp, and getting charged by a 190kg angry stag can be bad for your health.

Where to See the Red Deer Rut

Be sure to check details before visiting.  Some locations require permission for access and some require permits for photography.  Deer parks are good locations to observe the rut as the deer are used to having people around them and it's often possible to get much closer than you would in more remote locations.

  • Richmond Park, Surrey
  • Bushey Park, Middlesex
  • Wildwood Trust, Kent
  • Bucklebury Farm Park, Berkshire
  • Ashton Court Estate, Somerset
  • Arlington Court, Devon
  • Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
  • Chatsworth Park, Derbyshire
  • Bradgate Park & Swithland Wood Country Park, Leicestershire
  • Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire
  • Wollaton Park, Woolaton, Nottinghamshire
  • Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire
  • Lyme Park, Disley, Cheshire
  • Jedforest Deer Park, Northumberland
  • Margam Country Park, Port Talbot
  • Beecraigs Country Park, West Lothian
  • Glengoulandie Deer Park, Perthshire
  • The Highland Wildlife Park, Inverness-shire
  • The Scottish Deer Centre, Fife
  • Isle of Jura, Argyllshire
  • Gosford Forest Park, County Armagh

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