The red deer is Britain's largest land mammal. Although native to Britain, it is also found in southern Scandinavia, Turkey and as far as China and Mongolia.

Red Deer and Humans

The red deer has always been hunted by humans for its meat, known as venison, and for sport. In Roman times, coaches were pulled by teams of red deer during ceremonial processions connected with the worship of Diana, the goddess of hunting.

Today, humans are the adult deer's only predator. Calves are sometimes taken by carnivores such as foxes, Scottish wild cats and golden eagles, but the wolf, which may well have once been the red deer's main predator, became extinct in Britain during the 18th Century.

Most British herds are managed by keepers and herds have to be culled (selectively killed) each year, so that their numbers do not outgrow the food supply. Culling also removes the sick, weak and old individuals so that the herd is made up of strong and healthy animals. The venison is usually sold to help to pay for the upkeep of the herd.

The red deer is quite common in suitable habitats and even increasing. It is protected both as a game animal for hunting and as an ornamental animal in parks. Red deer farming is becoming increasingly popular, the animals being raised in a similar way to cattle.

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