Deer are beautiful, majestic animals that have many names we use to talk about them in regards to gender and age. The females, in particular, have some of the most varied and debatable nominal terminology. Some can indicate whether they’re virginal, pregnant or caretaking mothers.
So, what is a female deer called? There are three words in which to refer to a female deer: cow, doe, and hind. However, specific species carry particular terms. Doe refers to a smaller deer species, a hind refers to certain types of female deer and a cow represents large deer varieties. Cows can also refer to pregnant females of any species.
Understand that there are no strict guidelines for which words are appropriate to call a female deer. But, there are at least 43 different species native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. So it’s important to know the variations of names depending on the type of deer.
What Do You Call a Female Deer?
Even though there are no hard and fast rules for what to call a female deer, the nuance of wording helps to differentiate understanding. These can indicate her stage of life according to species and whether she has a fawn or not.
As a general rule, however, if you call a female deer a “doe,” most people will understand what you mean. You can use this term to refer to any species of female deer at any age, especially if you don’t know much about her species or motherhood status. Therefore, this also carries a connotation of a small type of deer that’s quick on its hooves.
This is an Old English word that may have ancient Celtic reference, originally called “da.” But this is not solely for deer, you can refer to a female rabbit and kangaroo as “doe.”
The other common word for a female deer is “hind.” This is specific to certain species of deer, like red deer and sika, that are two to three years old. But there are no strict rules for this and many people use “doe” and “hind” interchangeably.
“Hind” comes to us from the Old Germanic or Dutch word referring to a younger female deer that is definitely not a fawn. This means the word has Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Nordic associations. Such a deer is very fertile and may already have juveniles or be pregnant.
The usage of the term “cow” for female deer is rare. This word often has specific usage with a particular species; usually the larger types and varieties like Elk, Moose or Caribou. In some hunting circles, the word “cow” will refer to a very pregnant female.
Also, if you are uncertain about the species and motherhood status, if it’s a ginormous female, it is acceptable to identify her as a cow.
Is There a Quick Way to Refer to a Female Deer?
For those not very versed in the different species of deer and the nuances of naming, there is a quick way to refer to a female deer. Of course, you can always go with “doe.” This will be fine regardless of the species. If you recognize the female’s pregnant, you could opt to call her “cow.”
As a general rule, however, whatever you would call the male in any given species, there’s a natural opposite for the female counterpart (and vice versa). Although the mentions below are a good guide, these will not always be the proper case:
- Buck – Doe
- Stag – Hind
- Bull – Cow
What Are Female Deer Called Specific to Their Species?
The following is a brief list of the most common types of deer found throughout the world, certainly there are many others. The noun pairings below accompany their male and young nominal counterparts along with a mention of where they inhabit. They are as follows:
- Antelope – Cow (Bull and Calf); distributed worldwide
- Brocket – Doe (Stag or Buck and Fawn); small nocturnal species from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Central America and South America
- Elk – Cow (Bull and Calf); also called Wapiti, found widely throughout the cooler regions of North America and East Asia
- Fallow Deer – Doe (Buck and Fawn); found in South America, South Africa and Europe
- Gazelle – Doe (Buck or Stag and Calf); a subspecies of antelope, found throughout Asia (including India) and the savannas of Africa
- Moose – Cow or Hind (Stag or Bull and Calf); huge species from the deer family found in Russia, North America and Europe
- Mule Deer – Doe (Buck and Fawn); found exclusively in western North America
- Muntjac – Doe (Buck and Fawn); several subspecies are all over India, Iran, China and Taiwan
- Musk Deer – Doe (Buck and Fawn); not a “true” deer but found all over southern Asia
- Red Deer – Hind (Stag and Calf); found mostly in Europe and Asia
- Reindeer – Cow (Bull and Calf); more commonly known as Caribou and found across the northern hemisphere in cold to freezing climates
- Roe – Doe (Roebuck and Fawn); small European species
- Sambar – Doe (Stag and Fawn); distributed throughout all of Southeast Asia including China, India and Taiwan
- Spotted Deer – Hind (Stag and Fawn); also called Sika or Chital, from the entire Indian subcontinent and introduced to Austraila
- Tufted – Doe (Buck and Fawn); a small yet canine-fanged breed found across China
- Water Deer – Doe (Buck and Fawn); small sized species from Asia and introduced into North America
- Whitetail – Doe (Buck and Fawn); found exclusively in North America
How Can You Verify the Difference between Male and Female Deer?
It’s imperative to understand and identify the difference between genders of deer. This is because it is often illegal in most areas to hunt females. In most cases you won’t know if she’s newly pregnant or breastfeeding.
Generally speaking, the best way to gauge the difference between a male and female deer is by the appearance of antlers. If you see a big, beautiful pair of antlers, then you have a buck, stag, or bull. If the antlers are small, it’s a fawn or calf.
But, various families and species of deer will have specific gender indications. There are some female deer that do have horns or antlers areas on their head such as Antelope. Caribou (Reindeer), are the only species to have females with a full set of antlers.
Hooves ; Urination
In the case of following hoof tracks, females will have their legs positioned closer together whereas males will have a wider spread. This means females walk in a straighter, narrower line than the males, which tend to meander a bit.
Urination behavior is also an indicator of gender. Males stand where they are while females bend their legs. Females also have a propensity toward finding the cover of bushes and trees.
Are all female deer called “does?”
No, not all female deer have the name of “doe.” This is generally a size classification while recognizing the difference between species.
While there are no hard and fast rules, you can name any female deer a “doe.” Some people refer to female deer as “hinds” and “cows” refer to monstrously huge breeds.
What are the nuances of meaning between “doe,” “hind” and “cow?”
The difference between the various names for a female deer is basically due to size, species, and, in some cases, pregnancy. For instance, a Whitetail female deer is a doe, a Red Deer female is a hind and a female moose is a cow.
However, if you see a very pregnant Mule Deer, you can refer to her as a cow even though the general term for females is “doe.”
Why aren’t there any deer in Australia and Antarctica?
Since the 1800s, people have introduced several species of deer to Australia and Antarctica. It’s just that there are no deer native to these places. However, since introduction, they seem to thrive quite well and provide an additional beauty to the landscapes they inhabit.
As you can see, there are three basic names you can call a female deer: doe, hind or cow. Although a lot of this depends on her species and size, there are no strict guidelines for this. But it is a useful tool to understand what kind of deer you have in front of you and what species they come from.
So, there are some nuances to remember but it’s not a serious or definitive identification. When in doubt, call a female deer a doe since this suggests a small and light-footed breed.
Calling a female a hind indicates medium to larger types of species while cows refer to huge and ginormous female deer.
Understanding the different names you can use to identify female deer will be an invaluable tool in the field. Not only will you be able to save yourself a boatload of potential legal troubles, but you can also help to ensure the safe regeneration of the species.