The fallow deer (Dama dama) is a species of ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. It is native to Europe, but has been introduced around the world.
The fallow deer was native to most of Europe during the last interglacial. In the Pleistocene (the last ice age) the distribution was restricted to the Middle East and refugia in parts of the Mediterranean Basin: Sicily, Anatolia and the Balkan.
Pleistocene fallow deer were larger, extant populations have evolved into smaller animals.
Humans began to expand the distribution of this deer in the last two millennia by introducing it throughout Europe and further. In the Levant, fallow deer were an important source of meat in Palaeolithic cultures (420,000–200,000 BCE), as is shown by bones, also used for conserving the marrow for eating weeks after the kill, found in the Qesem cave.
The species appears to have disappeared from the southern Levant in the following Epipalaeolithic Natufian culture, 13,000–7,500 BCE, although gazelle and especially roe deer proliferated, perhaps because of climate change (increased aridity and the decrease of wooded areas), in combination with changing land use patterns and hunting pressure. At the same time the taxon persisted in the north in the Galilee region and the north of the WestBank.
A small herd, believed to be the oldest in the United States, exists in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (LBL) in far western Kentucky and Tennessee. The fallow deer herd in the LBL “was brought to LBL by the Hillman Land Company in 1918. LBL’s herd is believed to be the oldest population of fallow deer in the country, and at one time was the largest.
The name fallow is derived from the deer’s pale brown color. The Latin word dāma or damma, used for roe deer, gazelles, and antelopes, lies at the root of the modern scientific name, as well as the German Damhirsch, French daim, Dutch damhert, and Italian daino. In Croatian and Serbian, the name for the fallow deer is jelen lopatar (“shovel deer”), due to the form of its antlers. The Modern Hebrew name of the fallow deer is yachmur.