Red deer are the largest British land mammal. They are descended from the stags and hinds that crossed from Europe after the Ice Age. From Saxon times hunting rights were granted to the English Nobles and tracts of land were fenced to capture some of the wild deer. Bradgate was “enclosed” with a timber pale boundary circa 1240.
It is now the only remaining enclosed medieval deer park in the East Midlands which still retains much of its original form.
Fallow deer were native to Britain before the last ice age and were re-introduced by the Romans and later by the Normans. They would have been brought to Bradgate soon after the Park was “enclosed” and well before the time of Lady Jane Grey.
Bradgate Park’s Red and Fallow deer are some of the finest herds of parkland deer in the country. The average number of deer kept at Bradgate is around 400, about three quarters of which are Fallow deer.
The adult Fallow Deer bucks are prized for their ornamental value in deer parks. The Fallow is unique amongst deer in having many colour varieties, ranging from nearly black to almost white as well as the more common brown with white spots.
Fallow bucks spend most of the year in separate all male groups away from the female herds. They come together during the autumn breeding season when the bucks move into the traditional rutting areas and attract and hold a group of female does in an area known as a “rutting stand” and fight to keep off would be contenders. The rut starts in October and subsides in early November when the buck groups slowly reform.
Fallow does give birth to a single spotted fawn (twins are a rarity) in late May/early June. The young Fawns are suckled by the mother for some seven months.
Bucks typically carry flattened antlers (or blades). Every year these are shed in the early spring and new antlers are grown from April through to June. By August the antlers are fully formed, ready for use in the rut and the bucks carry them through the winter and into the following spring.
The Red Deer Stags also form separate herds for much of the year, when they live apart from the females and young. These bachelor groups break up once the velvet has been cleaned off their antlers and they begin to establish their breeding territories. They make themselves attractive and impressive by wallowing in mud.
The magnificent antlers, which only the stags carry, are formed entirely of bone and are grown in a period of only four months. Each year the multi-pointed antlers are shed in March and new ones grown again, larger than the previous year’s set.
The Red Deer are more aggressive than the Fallow in defending their rutting stands and some fearsome conflicts between rival stags often ensue.
The female herd is led by an adult hind and also will include the young Red deer calves and some of the yearling males.
The hinds give birth to a single calf in late May/early June.