How to tell the difference between deer species


There are six species of deer in the UK: roe deer, red deer, fallow deer, Reeve's Muntjac deer, sika deer and chinese water deer. In County Durham, by far the most common deer species we capture on our camera traps is the roe deer. However, as MammalWeb starts to collect images from new camera trap sites across the country, you may come across some different deer species whilst spotting. Telling the difference between deer species can sometimes be tricky, so we've summarised some key facts for all six species in the graphic below.


When classifying camera trap photos here are some key things you can look for to help you decide which deer species it is.

  • Size: The size of deer species varies greatly. The red deer is the largest species, with a shoulder height of up to 137 cm in males and 122 cm in females. Reeve's Muntjac deer and chinese water deer are the smallest, with a shoulder height of only 50-55 cm. In low level light roe deer and red deer (particularly females) can appear similar, so one way to determine which species it is would be to look at the size of the animal, as roe deer are smaller than red deer. You could look at background objects in camera trap photographs, such as trees or fence posts, to get an idea of scale.
  • Rump and tail: The colour, pattern and size of the rump and tail varies between all six deer species, so if you have a camera trap photo of the back end of the animal, this is a great way to tell the different species apart. 
  • Coat: The coat colour and pattern varies between deer species. However, there can be variation in coat colour and pattern within a species, and most species have different coat patterns in the summer and winter. So don't solely rely on coat colour to distinguish between species, but rather look at it in parallel with all of the other features.
  • Antlers: If it is a male deer with antlers, then the size and shape of antlers can tell you which species you are looking at.

If you would like more information on deer species in the UK, and the differences between them, here are some links to some great resources:

The Mammal Society's "Discover mammals" page:

The British Deer Society's "Deer Species" page:

NatureSpy's article on "What are the different British deer species?", which includes some lovely camera trap footage: