If you’ve ever spoken, heard, or read about deer in your life, you may already know that the word deer doesn’t play by the rules, as the plural form of it doesn’t have an ‘s’, meaning that more than one deer is still called deer, just like fish, moose, and octopus.
Deer also have a specific collective noun for male and female groups and groups as a whole, depending on size of the group and species. We will give you everything you need to know about groups of deer and what all the vocabulary means.
Names for Groups of Deer
Most people would call a group of deer a herd, similar to other hoofed mammals like cows, or horses. However, they can also be called mob, rangale, parcel, or bunch.
The word deer itself comes from the old English word déor. Déor was used to refer to any undomesticated animal that had four legs, from a hedgehog all the way to a wild horse.
Deer are a part of the Cervidae family, as well as ungulates, meaning that they have hooves.
Origins of Collective Nouns
Even though it might make more sense to simply call all groups of animals “groups,” the etymology of English is quite complicated. Our language not only comes from many others as roots (such as Latin and Greek), but in past centuries, deer hunters, among other hunters, named their prey with specific terms to show off their knowledge.
Deer hunters have been around for thousands of years, when men and women both would travel deep into the forest habitat looking for these majestic creatures. They would rally together on horses, bringing food and wine and sleeping in the forest until they found their prey.
Deer hunting has significant cultural traditions in many places; royalty would even go out on long adventures to find large mature bucks. When they would return with huge animals, not only would the meat be used to feed families and villages, but their antlers were mounted as prized possessions and deerskin was used for clothing and blankets.
Close your eyes and skip down if you’re a vegetarian. Venison is the word for deer meat. This word comes from the French language, and before that, Latin. The word vanari means to hunt, so venison used to mean any meat that was hunted, which could have meant cow, horse, deer, boar, or pig. Over time, it became generally known only for deer meat.
Venison is actually a very healthy choice, low in cholesterol and fat, with a high amount of protein and moisture. People usually use venison as steaks, sausages, and minced meat in pies. Deer are herbivores, which means that their meat is quite tender.
Venison is quite expensive, though, and today it is known as an affluent choice for food.
Veal is a more specific word, a version of venison. Veal is baby deer meat. There is some controversy regarding the choice to eat veal, but some cultures consider it a delicacy.
Rangale is a word that many people haven’t heard, especially as it refers to groups of deer. A rangale is a form of the ancient French word “rengaille.” A rengaille was the main section of an army—usually the common people sacrificing themselves. Deer, in comparison, are almost always seen around other deer. They are social animals, living their entire lives together. They also protect each other and give each other companionship, just as common citizens and army battalions did.
When you hear the word parcel, it might make you think of a package because, in Latin, the word “particula” refers to small portions or packages. A small herd of deer is often called a “parcel.” Usually, though, if you have much larger groups, they will simply be called herds.
A herd is the most common term for a large group of deer, but it can also be used for a small family (this is the most common word that people know and use). It’s also what a group of deer is called when there are many levels of social order together.
A herd of deer usually has anywhere from six to 12 members. This group is led by an alpha doe or a female leader. The alpha doe is often the oldest female deer in the group, and she is in charge because she has the most experience. Bucks and stags only come around during the mating season. They usually live alone, unlike the rest of the deer, preferring to roam the herd’s lands in solitary action. However, they supervise the rest of the herd from afar, making sure that predators are not too close and that other stags will not intrude on the group.
The females make sure that their fawns are kept safe at all times, just like many mammal mothers. They give them milk and nurture them until it is time for them to join the herd as mature females or males.
Deer are social animals that help each other survive by alerting each other to danger for the herd with snorts, fluffing of their tails, stomping on the ground, and staring hard with their nose pointed in a certain direction while moving their ears back and forth to bring in as much movement sight, sound, and scent as possible.
Deer have developed these behavioral traits over thousands and thousands of years to ensure the survival of their herds.
Types of Deer
Across the entire world, there are at least sixty species of deer. These all look and act a bit differently depending on how they have evolved and the place in the world from which they came. The migration of humans has brought deer to South Africa and Australia, as well as North America, Asia, and Europe.
There are many types of deer among these species, such as does, stags, bucks, and fawns. But what do all these words mean and when should you use one over the other?
You know the song, “Doe, a deer, a female deer.” Easy enough to remember! The female deer leader is also called the ‘alpha doe.’ Does can also be called ‘hinds.’ The alpha doe is often the most experienced or oldest of the herd, and she helps protect the group and teach the rest what to do, especially when the bucks are not present.
A stag is the head male or the ‘alpha male’ of the herd. The stag deer is usually the oldest and receives the best territory on the vegetation and bedding areas as well as the first pick of does during mating season. When many bucks are competing to take over the position of the stag, they might box, kick, or charge their rivals. The stag, as with the other male deer, usually spends most of his time alone unless he comes back for extra protection or mating.
The rest of the males in a herd who are not the stag are called the bucks. Bucks are not as social as young deer or female deer, and they tend to live alone and only come back to the group to mate.
During this mating time, their personality changes significantly, and rutting bucks (what they are called when they are in heat) are known to run into traffic in search of their preferred female deer.
Once a male deer has successfully mated with a female deer, the male deer will stay around for a few days to make sure that she is not approached or mounted by another male deer. This is another way that deer have evolved, not necessarily for the protection of the species but for the protection of their own genes.
Fawns are nursed by their mother does for about three or four months. They tend to stay in their area of nesting, as they are not yet strong or confident enough to travel long distances for food or run as fast as the rest to escape a predator, but the mother does visit them a few times a day in between grazing and finding water. Fawns are also sometimes known as calves (like the baby of a cow) or kids (like the baby of a goat). See how all the hoofed mammals are related?
Species of Deer
Each different deer species is also referred to by a specific name.
Did you know that a moose is actually part of the deer family? You can identify them by their massive antlers. A group of moose is also just called “moose.”
Reindeer also don’t have an ‘s’ when you refer to more than one! Santa has eight reindeer, not reindeers. Male and female reindeer both use the same collective noun. Reindeer are sometimes also known as caribou.
You might not think you’ve ever seen a mule deer, but if you’ve watched or read ‘Bambi,’ then you know what a mule deer looks like!
A group of fallow deer is called a parcel or herd, similar to many other species.
A group of red deer is called a herd or parcel if they are a small group, as they generally are.
White Tail Deer
A group of white tail deer is usually called a herd or parcel, as they often live in small groups as opposed to some other species.
Black Tail Deer
Black tail deer also live in small groups, so are usually called parcels.
The proper collective noun for roe deer is also herd or parcel.
Other Types of Deer
There are many other species of deer, including elk and sika deer.
Bringing All These Words Together
Now, if anyone asks you, “What is a group of deer called?”, you will be able to answer intelligently… probably with more information than they thought they’d receive!