Deer males have names varying from bull, buck, hart, stag, and spiker. The whitetail deer is the most common deer in the United States, though there are more than 100 different species of deer across the globe – all with their unique characteristics.
How do we know what to call a male deer with so many different species and different names?
This article will break down the five different names for male deer and when and why they are used. We will also go over identifying a male deer, telling the age of a male deer and the different families of deer and how this all relates to the language we use to name them.
Breakdown Of Different Male Deer Names
There is a Germanic terminology associated with the deer. The word “deer” originates in Middle English but developed over time into a more specific term for species of the families of Cervinae and Capreolineae
The body structure and body features of different species of deer determine their names. The five most commonly used names for a male deer are:
Let’s break each of these names down to their origin and how we use them in modern descriptions of deer.
This word has deep Germanic roots and originally meant “male animal in its prime.” A male deer in his prime is ready to fight, defend and mate – perhaps why it is used for Grooms-to-be!
This term is specific for male deer and is most commonly used across the hunting community.
Over time this term becomes less broad and more specific to deer. It is now only used to describe adult male deer – those that possess antlers. This does not include immature male deer.
Buck is probably the most commonly used term to describe a male deer. It refers to both the mature and immature male deer.
The term buck also comes from ancient german roots, but the actual emergence of the world has been lost over the years. But it has gone on to affect modern-day slang. For example, referring to $1 as “a buck” comes from American colonial times where a deers hide was worth $1.
The word buck is also used for many other species, notably the kangaroo, ferret and rat.
This term is quite rare, and in modern times, it is specifically used to refer to a male deer of the Red Deer species.
It was used only to describe a male deer that has surpassed its 5th year of life in ancient times. The word originates from multiple old English dialects.
The matching term for a female deer is a hind.
“Bull” is a term used to describe the male of bovine animals. Bull is often associated with cattle for this reason. While scientifically, bull is not an appropriate term for male deer, it often will describe a male deer.
This could be because antelope are part of the bovine family, so bull is applicable for male antelope. Many antelope closely resemble deer, and some species are often confused.
The origin of the word bull also originates from the german root meaning “to bellow”. This could be the link to deer as male deer are often described by loud bellowings, coined “roaring”.
The term spiker is not one common used or even described. It is primarily slang specific to certain regions, mainly used in New Zealand.
“Spiker” is used to describe a male deer that is approximately one year of age. It usually refers to male deer that are no longer juveniles but not adults, like teenage boys.
They are named spiker simply due to their immature antler growth that is just one-pointed and resembles spikes. No fancy history to the word in this case, rather than hunting community slang used to identify adolescent male deer.
Stag VS Buck
As you can see, there is a wide range of terms used to describe male deer, all in all, it can get pretty confusing! The two most common words used tend to be stag and buck.
So, what’s the difference between these two terms and what should you be using and when?
Both of these terms are appropriate to use to describe an adult male deer. There is no right or wrong regarding using these terms. They are used interchangeably often due to local dialect and the circles you run in.
The only real difference is the term “stag “ refers to deer only.
The term “buck” is utilised to describe the male of many other species, in addition to deer.
Bucks is probably the most commonly used in the United States, while stag is prefered elsewhere in the world.
Identifying A Male Deer
The antlers of male deer distinguish them from females. Antlers are a physical attribute that is exclusive to deer species. Antlers differ from horns in that they grow directly from the skull and are genuine bone, not keratin.
Antlers do not have an internal blood supply like horns.
Instead, their growth comes from external resources from the cover of velvet. Antlers will drop seasonally after the breeding season and regrow each year more prominent than the year before.
In a herd, antlers help maintain social hierarchy and aid in determining the mate of female deer.
If the antlers only grow on mature male deer and are dropped seasonally, there are other tactics to identify a male over a female:
- Tracks – male deer have a wider foot and leave a wider footprint than female deer.
- Dragging – bucks tend to drag their feet as they walk, leaving behind an apparent track, whilst females pick their feet higher and leave a tidier track.
- Social structure – does will also stay in groups for safety under the protection of a buck. A buck without a herd may roam solo in search of females. A lone deer is likely a male.
- Urination – males will urinate while walking, females will stop to squat.
- Stance – a male will lead the herd and venture out first to protect the does and the young. The leader of a herd will be a male.
Telling The Age Of A Male Deer
The name given to a male deer depends on its age. So how can you tell how old a male deer is from afar? What is the difference between a young male and a female deer?
Here are our top tips for aging male deer:
- An adult male deer is easily recognisable due to having antlers. Female deer and young males will not have these.
- A young male may resemble a female due to being without antlers but still a reasonable size. They will have a flatter head than a female deer (a doe).
- A young male will have a thinner neck than an older buck. Once they reach around three years of age, they will build more muscle in the neck.
- A young male will also have a thinner neck than an adult female.
- A young deer will have thin and long legs and look “gangly” compared to their body. They won’t become more evenly distributed and “stocky” until four years of age.
- Deer possess tarsal glands on their hind legs for scent marking purposes. The older the deer is, the darker this patch of fur will appear due to older, sexually mature males excreting many hormones.
- View the antlers from the side – an older buck will have antlers that protrude up to the length of the nose. A younger buck will have antlers more set back.
- Antler spread – young bucks will have a spread of antlers that doesn’t exceed 35cm, while a more mature buck can grow their antlers with a distance of up to 40cm between them.
The antlers of a buck take different lengths depending on the habitat health, so novice hunters may have difficulty determining the animal’s age from its antlers.
Two Families Of Deer
There are up to a hundred different species of deer that fall under two families:
Males of different species and families will have additional naming guides. See our quick guide below for a brief overview of the most commonly known species of each family.
Males Of Cervinae
Red Deer: Male red deer are commonly known as bucks. “Hart” is also exclusively used for male red deer, mainly for individuals over five years of age.
Sika Deer: Male sika deer are often referred to as a stag, while together in a group of stags, they will be coined a buck.
Barasingha: The male of this species is called a stag as an adult but a buck when they are still immature.
Males Of Capreolinae
Roe Deer: The male of this species is called a roebuck, which is simply a mix of buck with the species name, roedeer.
Brocket Deer: This species males are exclusively called bucks.
Reindeer: This species of deer is unique since both the males and females have antlers instead of just the males. Buck and stag are used interchangeably for reindeer.