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8 Unique Characteristics of Deer (Pictures)

Deer are a type of mammal that is found all over the world. There are many different types of deer, but they all share some common characteristics. Deer are usually herbivores, meaning that they eat plants.

Deer have four legs and hooves, and most species have antlers. Antlers are a type of bone that grows out of the top of a deer’s head, and they are used for fighting and for attracting mates.

Antlers are often sexually dimorphic, meaning that males often have them and females don’t. Read about the 8 characteristics on this list to find out more about deer. But first, let’s quickly define characteristic.

So, What Is A Characteristic?

A characteristic is a feature of an organism that is immediately apparent, such as eye color or skin pigmentation. Characteristics can have several traits or ways of presenting themselves.

Using eye color as an example, having eye color would be the characteristic and blue eyes, green eyes, or brown eyes would be the trait. Populations can evolve to have a dominant trait, such as brown eyes, to aid in their survival making the trait an adaptation.

8 Characteristics of Deer

1. Two Hooves

Tufted Deer
Tufted Deer | image by Heather Paul via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Deer have two hooves on each foot. These hooves help them to survive in their environment by providing them with traction and stability.

Additionally, the deer’s hooves are also used for self-defense. If a deer feels threatened, it will use its hooves to kick at its attacker.

Deer use their hooves to travel across different types of terrain, including snow, mud, and forest floors. Additionally, deer use their hooves to dig for food and water.

Deer are able to adapt their hooves to the type of terrain they primarily live on. For example, if a deer lives on snowy terrain, its hooves tend to be longer and wider to provide more traction.

On muddy terrain, the deer’s hooves will be shorter and narrower to help prevent the deer from getting stuck. The different shapes and sizes of the deer’s hooves allow the deer to survive in a variety of environments.

2. Four-Chambered Stomach

The deer has a four-chambered stomach that allows it to digest its food properly. This stomach is divided into four sections: the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum. Each section has a different function in breaking down the food that the deer eats.

The first chamber, the rumen, is the largest of the four chambers. This is where food is first stored and where fermentation occurs. The second chamber, the reticulum, is where food is ground up and mixed with saliva.

The third chamber, the omasum, absorbs water and nutrients from the food. The fourth and final chamber, the abomasum, is where digestion occurs.

The four-chambered stomach of the deer is a hallmark of animals that eat plants. This type of stomach allows deer to digest the cellulose in plants, which is otherwise indigestible for most animals.

3. Short Tails

Marsh Deer trying to escape
Marsh Deer trying to escape | image by Phillip Capper via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Deer have short tails that measure between 4 and 8 inches in length. The tail is used as a signaling device by the deer.

When a deer is alarmed, it will raise its tail to warn other deer of potential danger. The tail is also used to help balance the deer while running. The deer’s tail is covered in long, black hair that helps protect the deer from cold weather and biting insects.

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4. Long and Strong Legs

Deer have long, skinny legs that help them to move quickly and gracefully through their environment. These legs also help deer to jump high and far, which is useful for escape from predators or for crossing over obstacles. The legs of a deer are also very strong, enabling the animal to run for long distances without tiring.

5. Camouflage Coat

Deer in grassland
Deer in grassland

The coat color of deer can vary depending on the species, but it is typically some shade of brown. This coloration helps them to blend in with their surroundings and avoid detection by predators.

The coat also provides insulation against the cold weather and helps to keep the deer warm. The coat is made of thick fur that is shed each year and grows back in the spring. Deer are also very good at camouflage and can often be difficult to spot in their natural environment.

6. Crepuscular Animals

Deer are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. However, they can also be active during the night, especially if there is a full moon.

If you’re lucky, you might spot a deer in your headlights while driving at night. Deer are crepuscular because they are prey animals. By being most active when predators are less likely to be out and about, deer increase their chances of survival.

7. Sexual Dimorphism

White-tailed Deer mating
White-tailed Deer mating | image by Lisa Zins via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Deer are sexually dimorphic creatures, meaning that there are noticeable differences between males and females. The most obvious difference is that male deer have antlers, while female deer do not. Male deer also tend to be larger in size than females.

In addition, male deer tend to have stronger and more muscular bodies than females. In caribou or reindeer, as they are known when domesticated, female deer also have antlers, the only deer species with this lack of sexual dimorphism when it comes to antlers.

Water deer are not sexually dimorphic about antlers either, but it’s because they have none. Water deer males and females have canines similar to tusks.

8. Antlers

Pair of mule deer at rocky mountain arsenal
Pair of mule deer at rocky mountain arsenal

Antlers are made of bone and are covered in a thin layer of skin called velvet. Male deer use their antlers to court females by making loud noises and displaying their antlers for the females to see.

Antlers are also used in fights between males for dominance. Deer shed their antlers each year and regrow them in the spring. The size and shape of a deer’s antlers can vary depending on the species.