The red deer is one of the largest deer species. It inhabits most of Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in Northwest Africa. The Red Stag is the only species of deer to inhabit Africa.
Red Stag are ruminants, characterized by an even number of toes and a four-chambered stomach. The slightly larger wapiti (Elk), native to North America, represents a distinct species besides red deer. It is the fourth largest species behind moose, elk, and sambar deer.
The male stag typically weighs 350 to 530 pounds while females typically weigh between 260 - 370 pounds.
Only the stags have antlers, which start growing in the spring and are shed each year, usually at the end of winter.
Red Deer antlers are distinctive in being rather straight and rugose, with the fourth and fifth tines forming a "crown" or "cup" in larger males. Any tines in excess of the fourth and fifth tine will grow radially from the cup.
Mature Red Deer usually stay in single-sex groups for most of the year. During the mating season, called the rut, mature stags compete for the attention of the hinds (female) and will then try to defend the hinds they attract. Rival stags challenge opponents by bellowing and walking in parallel. This allows combatants to access each other's antlers, body size and fighting prowess. If neither stag backs down, a clash of antlers can occur, and stags sometimes sustain serious injuries.
Dominant stags follow groups of hinds during the rut, from August to winter. Stags may have as many as 20 hinds. Only mature stags hold harems (groups of hinds) and breeding success peaks at bout 8 years of age. Stags who are 2 - 4 years old rarely hold harems and spend most of their time in the periphery of larger harems, as do stags over 11 years. Harem-holding stags rarely feed and lose up to 20% of their body weight. Stags that enter rut in poor condition are less likely to make it through to the peak conception period.
Males have a distinctive "roar" like sound during the rut, as opposed to elk that "bugle" during rut. Females are attracted to males that "roar" often and loudest. Males also roar to keep their harem together and when competing with other males for females during rut. It is a method used by males to establish dominance. Roaring is most common during the early dawn and late evening which is also when they are most active.