The red deer (Cervus Elaphus) is one of the largest deer species. The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region and parts of Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa.
Red deer are ruminants, characterized by an even number of toes and a four-chambered stomach.
Although at one time red deer were rare in some areas, they were never close to extinction. Reintroduction and conservation efforts, especially in the United Kingdom, have resulted in an increase of red deer populations.
The deer of Central and Western Europe vary greatly in size and female red deer are much smaller than their male counterparts. Generally, the male (stag or hart) red deer is typically 1.75 to 2.30 m long and weighs 160 to 240 kg the female is 1.60 to 2.10 m long and weighs 120 to 170 kg.
Red deer have different coloration based on the seasons and types of habitats, with grey or lighter coloration prevalent in the winter and a more reddish and darker coat in the summer.
Only the stags have antlers which start growing in the spring and are shed each year, usually at the end of winter. Antlers are made of bone which can grow at a rate of 2.5 cm a day. A soft covering known as velvet helps to protect newly forming antlers in the spring.
With the approach of autumn, the antler begin to calcify and the stags testosterone production builds for the approaching rut (mating season).