Terminology of the Cervidae Family

Terminology of the Cervidae Family

An explanation of the words used to describe the deer family.

A/N: It's important to note that there are a lot of species in the Cervidae family, and I can't say what you'd call the male, female, and young of every one. These are the basic terms for the family.


The name "Deer"

Yes, I found the origin of the name 'deer' very facinating, partially because I find Old/middle english very fascinating. The word was originally, in old english, d?or. Dunno how to pronounce that one, but it's remarkably similar to modern english. Originally, deor was just a word to describe any wild animal at all as opposed to cattle. Not quite what we have today. Then again, their word for cattle encompassed all livestock. So, there's probably a remarkably smaller dictionary for old english.

It soon changed over to simply Der. This was the middle english word. It still had a pretty general sense, I believe, but I may be wrong on this point because what I've read has been very vague on this.

Thus, we have moved on to "Deer", a word which encompasses the Cervidae family - everything from Pudu deer to moose. Generally, animals in Cervidae range in weight from 30 to 300 Kg(that's 70 to 700 lb), the smallest being the Northern Pudu weighing 10 Kg (20 lb), and the largest being the moose, weighing 431 Kg (1,000 lb). As we all know, all male cervids have antlers, unless out of season or under supernatural circumstances(extremely poor nutrition - as in about to starve to death, or budding). Caribou is the only species in which both genders have antlers. Deer are ruminants - they have four-chambered stomachs, like cows. But anyway, I'm here to look at words, not biology.



Now, these names are where the most confusion takes place, it seems. I myself have fallen victim to using the wrong term. We all know caribou come to mind... ;) And I'll be straightening that out here.

First off, "Buck" is generally the excepted term for most deer species, but we've all gotten tangled up with confusion here on the Bambi source when Caribou started showing up. It took us awhile to finally realize that the proper word for a male caribou, just like bovines, is bull.

But wait! Moose are bulls, too. Both are very large species. However, not all large-species males are bulls. In fact, if you've got a male of a large species of cervid and you don't know what the correct term would be, your best bet is actually the term stag. See, it may be because the source is translated from a different language, but in all reality, all the deer characters are technically filed under "large male deer," even if the term is vaguely accepted.

Be very careful though - Red deer get a specific name: though you could call him a stag, buck, or bull, a grown red deer male is also called a hart. These guys are a tad confusing, however - a young male red deer with his first head will be called a pricket, as he only has two points(He'll also look very funny).

There's one more thing for males - when you have one who is casterated(neutered), he's a havier, no matter the breed. He'll also have antlers all year, that don't come out of velvet.


Females, young, and groups

This one's a bit less versatile and confusing. Most species can be called does. Females of larger species are called cows. Fully grown does capable of reproduction are called hinds, no matter her species.

The young go by three names depending on size. Small species are generally called kids, but the medium-species name fawn is also acceptable. Large species are calfs.

A group of cervids will always be a herd. It's the most common and simple term, but there are actually more words: Sick of saying "Herd" over and over and you're talking about Roe deer? Simple: Use "Bevy!" What about you, like me, are writing a story about deer and want to refer to a vagely large group of bucks, military or not? Well, you could use "Clash" or "Brace." If you have females in the group, too, you'll be able to use "Gang" or "Leash." Weird, right?


Guide for Plural and Singular forms

This section gets thrown off alot, too - blame english, because apparently, when you mix together a ton of other languages' rules, there be no rules at all. I.e. - Goose, geese... Moose, meese? Nope. Moose, moose.

Singular - plural


Deer - deer

Caribou - Caribou

Moose - Moose

Pudu - Pudus?

Black-tail - black-tails

White-tail - white-tails


Buck - bucks

stag - stags

bull - bulls

hart - harts

Pricket - prickets


Doe - does

Hind - hinds

Kid - kids

Fawn - Fawns

Calf- Calfs

Herd - herds


A short list of breed sizes

Because, frankly, I have to look this up and this is a ton easier than checking wikipedia every time.


Small species


Tufted deer

Musk deer, such as the Chinese water deer



Medium Species

White-tailed deer

Mule deer

Black-tailed deer

Fallow deer

Marsh deer

Large Species



Red deer

Elk/wapiti(Very closely related to red deer

Deer of the Genus Cervus




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December 28, 2012
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I just found out - a group of roebucks is a bevy.

December 27, 2012
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Glad I could help! ^^ Yeah, that's english for you. XD I imagine it's one of the more difficult languages to learn because whoever established it had no clue what he was doing. :b

December 27, 2012
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Oh my God FV thank you! Heck it was very difficult for me to be sure that the terms I was using were the right ones because in italian we don't have all these names xD
Indeed this is very helpful!

December 27, 2012
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Here's a nice little guide for deer words! Hope this helps everyone. :)

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