Animal Info - Persian Fallow Deer

(Other Names: 美索不达米亚鹿, 波斯鹿, ペルシャダマシカ, Gamo persa, Mesopotamian Fallow Deer, Mesopotamischer Damhirsch)

Dama dama mesopotamica (D. mesopotamica, Cervus dama mesopotamicus)

Status: Endangered


1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Maximum Reproductive Age, Diet, Social Organization, Minimum Viable Population)
5. References


Pictures: Persian Fallow Deer #1 (42 Kb GIF); Persian Fallow Deer #2 (Huffman 2004); Persian Fallow Deer #3 (15 Kb JPEG) (Les Cerfs)

The Persian fallow deer is the largest of the fallow deer, weighing 40 - 100 kg (90 - 220 lb). It occupies woodland habitat. The diet of fallow deer varies by season and includes grass, nuts and leaves. Fallow deer live in herds, with males establishing territories during the breeding season.

The Persian fallow deer previously occurred in North Africa from the Tunisian border to the Red Sea and in Asia from Syria and Jordan to Iraq and western Iran. It was hunted to extinction over most of its range, with the advent of modern firearms having accelerating this process. By 1951 it was thought to have become extinct, but in 1955 a limited number were found in a dense forested region in Iran, near the border with Iraq. This population persisted despite continued hunting and habitat destruction at least until the 1980's. Recently, conflict between Iran and Iraq has made it difficult to determine the deer's status.


*** The antlers of adult male deer, such as the Persian fallow deer, distinguish them from animals with horns, such as antelope and goats. The antlers are bony like horns, but unlike horns they are shed and regrown each year. Female deer do not have antlers except for reindeer.

*** Artwork from the 9th century BC shows fallow deer being farmed as domestic livestock.

Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Persian Fallow Deer Is Currently Found:

2003: Occurs in Iran and Israel (re-introduced). May be extinct in Iraq. (Saltz 1998, IUCN 2003a)


There is debate over the taxonomic status of the Persian fallow deer. It is considered by some to be a full species, Dama mesopotamica.  Currently, the IUCN classifies it as a subspecies, Dama dama mesopotamica, of the fallow deer, Dama dama.

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The Persian fallow deer was first documented by Western science in 1875. It previously occurred in North Africa from the Tunisian border to the Red Sea and in Asia from Syria and Jordan to Iraq and western Iran. By 1951 it was considered to have become extinct, but in 1955 it was found to be surviving in limited numbers in a dense forested region along the Dez and Karkeh Rivers in Iran, near the border with Iraq. In the late 1970's, prior to when disturbances began in the region, this population was reportedly well protected and starting to increase in numbers. In 1987 the status of this population in what was currently a war zone was unknown.

Persian fallow deer were re-introduced in Israel in September of 1996 in the Kziv Nature Reserve in northern Israel. As of April 1998 there were 27 females and 28 males in the wild. (Saltz 1998)

Distribution Map (4 Kb) (Huffman 2004)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

The Persian fallow deer was hunted to extinction over most of its range, with the introduction of modern firearms having accelerated this process. In the middle of the 20th century, in addition to hunting the remaining population was threatened by habitat loss and disturbance due to firewood gatherers and overgrazing by domestic animals. More recently, fighting between Iran and Iraq provided an additional threat.

Data on Biology and Ecology


The Persian fallow deer weighs 40 - 100 kg (90 - 220 lb).


The Persian fallow deer occurs in woodlands, such as tamarisk.

Age to Maturity:

About 16 months, but males do not breed for several years.

Gestation Period:

About 230 days.

Birth Season:

Mating occurs in the Fall. Births occur in early summer.

Birth Rate:

Usually a single fawn is born; twinning occurs rarely.

Preliminary observations of the Persian fallow deer re-introduced into Israel suggested that reproductive success in the first season in the wild was low (~0.2 fawns/female/year) (Saltz 1998).

Maximum Reproductive Age:

About 15 years.


The fallow deer is principally a grazer, with grass accounting for over 60% of its diet in summer. In the fall the proportion of fruits such as nuts increases. In the winter, the fallow deer browses on leaves.

Social Organization:

The fallow deer lives in herds. During the breeding season, males establish territories.

Minimum Viable Population:

"...there were insufficient data to carry out a detailed viability analysis for the ...Persian fallow deer" (Saltz 1998)


Burton & Pearson 1987, Curry-Lindahl 1972, Harrison 1968, Huffman 2004, IUCN 1969, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, Les Cerfs, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Oryx 1965, Oryx 1966, Oryx 1972b, Oryx 1979, Oryx 1986e, Pepper 1964, Saltz 1998

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Last modified: May 31, 2005;

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