There are various animals globally that remarkably resemble and are often mistaken by many people as deer. These creatures, often known as deer look-alikes, frequently exhibit traits similar to the deer species.
Fortunately, this article aims to clarify this error by highlighting 18 animal species that closely resemble deer. To achieve this objective, I will explore and compare the vital and similar characteristics that influence such comparison.
I will also provide essential information and distinctive features of each species to enable you to differentiate them from the deer.
1. Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)
Pronghorn and deer share various physical characteristics, such as an identical body shape and similar structures of legs. This similarity makes some people refer to them as deer.
However, these species are not related to deer since they are the only surviving members of the Antilocapridae family, which is closely/genetically related to okapis and giraffes. On the other hand, deer belong to the Cervidae family.
2. Chinkara (Gazella bennettii)
Although the vast deserts and sparse vegetation of Iran, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan seem inhospitable, the chinkara species thrive well in these habitats.
When observing these mammals from a distance, they resemble deer due to their brown-coated fur. However, if you’re fortunate to take a closer look, you’ll notice that they have short horns, typical among the gazelle species.
For those wondering how these mammals survive in such harsh ecosystems, known to experience prolonged water shortages, it’s vital to note that chinkaras can survive for a long time without water because they consume the dew that forms at night on the available shrubs.
3. Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)
Although this huge ungulate species resembles a deer in terms of having a sleek, thin torso, the white stripes on its flanks are useful in distinguishing them from the latter.
The greater kudu belongs to the antelope family, and its scientific prefix ‘Tragelaphus‘ means ‘goat’ in Latin. They have big spiraling horns extending backward and toward the sky.
They have a fairly wide geographic range in Africa, inhabiting forests in southern and eastern regions.
4. Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra)
The female blackbucks resemble deer so closely that for many, the only indication of their identity will be where they were spotted.
However, blackbucks are a type of antelope native to India and Nepal. But like deer, they are mainly present in grassy plains close to water sources.
5. Gemsbok (Oryx gazella)
Although the gemsbok belongs to the Oryx genus of gazelles, their main body structure is similar to that of a large deer buck. These species live in arid environments, particularly the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa.
Male and female gemsboks can only be distinguished externally by their horns. Males have shorter and thicker horns, whereas female gemsboks are longer and thinner.
6. Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus)
The roan antelope looks like a deer because of its reddish-brown coat and white spots on its flanks and hindquarters. They also have thick necks and slender legs that resemble those of deer.
However, upon taking a closer look, wildlife experts, especially those familiar with the deer species, will notice that the limbs of roan antelopes are slightly larger.
These mammals have horns that spiral to a length of up to 4 feet. They can also weigh up to 590 pounds and stand up to 4.6 inches tall at the shoulder.
They prefer open or sparsely forested savannas with medium to long grass and close to water sources. Like deer, they eat succulents, leaves, and longer grasses but inhabit the central and west African regions.
7. Addax (Addax nasomaculatus)
Addax is a highly endangered breed of antelope native to the Sahara Desert and is sometimes called the “white antelope.”
The interesting thing about this species is its chameleonic capacity to change color. Yet, they do so to adjust to temperature variations as the seasons change, not to blend in with their surroundings.
When the warmer months arrive, their coat turns completely white or, in some cases, very pale blonde. In the winter months, it is grayish-brown.
When observed from a distance, they resemble deer, especially during the cold/winter period when their coat color is brownish.
8. Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii)
Though their bodies closely resemble deer, nyalas are easily distinguished by their spiky dorsal crest that resembles a hyena. Moreover, they have rather large ears, and males have a sub-crest of fur that falls down their chest.
As is often the case, the species’ females resemble deer more than the males, but there is a definite way to tell the difference thanks to a series of thin white markings running down their flanks.
9. Urial (Ovis vignei)
The urial is a wild sheep native to India, but because of their long legs and huge coiling horns, they might occasionally be mistaken for deer. However, they frequently have thick “goatee” beards, which is a very obvious sign that they are not deer.
Urial prefers to reside in high-altitude habitats. Examples of urial hotspots include the Hindu Kush, Himalayas, and Pamir Mountains.
10. Speke’s Gazelle (Gazella spekei)
The Speke’s gazelle is the smallest species of gazelle on earth and is found only in the northern “horn” of Africa, where it prefers grass savannas, semi-desert areas, and sandy shrubs.
Sadly, the Speke’s Gazelle is now listed as endangered because of ongoing habitat fragmentation and degradation, but a significant captive population is well-maintained.
They bear the name John Hanning Speke after the mid-1800s British explorer who spent most of his time and money on expeditions in Africa. This species is often mistaken as a young and maturing deer fawn due to its light reddish-brown colored body coat/fur.
11. Chamois Colored Goat (Capra hircus x Rupicapra rupicapra)
A chamois-colored goat would never be mistaken for a deer up close; however, from a distance, the animal’s long, slender neck and brown color might confuse you.
These relatively lovely goats, originally from Switzerland, migrated and settled across Austria and Italy during the medieval era. They are exclusively domestic; therefore, you must travel to a farm in one of the countries mentioned above to spot them.
They have two black patches over their eyebrows, from which arcing horns extend backward.
12. Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus)
Klipspringer is an extremely small animal, so you wouldn’t mistake them for mature deer, but the inexperienced eye might confuse them for deer fawns.
They are a small type of antelope native to East and Southern Africa. They range in size from 40 to 60 cm from feet to shoulder; however, despite their relatively small size, they are exceptionally strong.
One of the most interesting facts regarding the klipspringers is that, unlike most of their antelope relatives, these species are monogamous.
They also rarely move more than 5 meters from their partners throughout their adult lifetime. Therefore, it’s safe to conclude that they are among the few most loyal and committed mammals!
13. Suni (Nesotragus moschatus)
Given that they only attain heights between 12 and 17 inches, suni are an additional micro-antelope resembling deer fawns. With dark brown upper bodies and white necks and bellies, they also have a deer-like coloring.
They are well-known for their unique barking and whistling sounds. Unlike female suni’s, who are hornless their entire lives, males grow small, ridged, backward curling horns.
They are extremely social creatures but exclusively inside their territory. They also require very little water to live since they obtain most of it from the moisture and dew present in leaves, fruits, flowers, and fungi.
14. Oribi (Ourebia ourebi)
The female oribi closely resembles a deer due to its red-brown body coat and significantly smaller body size compared to its male counterpart. However, these mammals are part of the antelope family.
They have long, slender necks and highly sensitive ears stretching out to monitor their surroundings. They are present throughout all of Africa, except the northern region, and can be found in tropical grasslands, riverbeds, and savannas.
15. Impala (Aepyceros melampus)
Although you’d swear that impala are part of the deer species due to their striking similarity (body size and color), they are antelopes in Southern and East Africa.
They are exceptionally slim creatures, even more so than deer, and have significantly lighter coloration than most deer species. Impala females preserve their doe-like look while males grow long, aisles horns. They graze/feed on various plants, including acacia pods, monocotyledonous vegetation, and wild fruit.
16. Okapi (Okapia johnstoni)
The okapi’s appearance resembles a hybrid of the zebra and deer crossed since it has white lines on its legs covering its red-brown body fur.
The okapi is part of the Ungulates genus, including deer and various other related large-hoofed animals. However, they are more closely related to giraffes than to deer.
17. Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis)
The beautiful springbok of south and southwest Africa is also among the deer look-alike animals; since they have a similar body coat color and size as the deer.
However, these medium-sized antelopes can be distinguished by their big diamond-shaped ears, inwardly curved horns (on both sexes), and dark stripe that extends between the mouth and eye.
18. Mouse Deer/Chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor)
The Chevrotain, sometimes known as the Mouse Deer, resemble young and developing deer fawns due to their light red-brown coat and small size hence the name ‘mouse deer.’
They are the tiniest ungulate creatures (even-toed hoofed herbivores) in the world and belong to the Tragulidae family. These timid animals are typically found in the deep jungles of Asia’s southern and southeast regions.
Although these 18 mammals have certain body features and characteristics similar to deer, many assume they are closely related to deer. Therefore, it’s essential to note that despite all of them being herbivorous, some are in different taxonomic classifications.