Tis the season to be (st)rutting!
If you think 21st century dating is difficult, step into the hooves of Tatton Park’s deer.
Autumn marks the beginning of the highly competitive mating season, known as ‘the rut’. And competing for fair ladies’ hooves are scores of posturing male Red and Fallow deer – every one of them desperate to avoid the lonely harts’ club.
The rutting season is triggered by the shorter daylight hours and cooler weather. Tatton Park, in rural Cheshire East, is one of the best places in the UK to witness this spectacular event. A deer park since 1290, Tatton is now home to over 400 Red and Fallow deer, who roam freely within its 1,000 acres of Parkland.
The drama of the autumn deer rut reaches its height in the antler-clashing battles between the males. Phil Lucas, Park Manager commented “You cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer power and beauty of two stags in battle as muscle and antler is used to the utmost to prove the superior strength, experience and determination, before one roars in magnificent victory at his fleeing opponent.”
The preparations for the rut start in August, when the male deer ‘fray’ the velvet off their hardened antlers by rubbing them on trees and branches. Their necks also begin to swell and thicken, strengthening them for potential clashes with other male ‘suitors’.
Males begin to roar and ‘parallel walk’ to intimidate rivals and to attract the mature females. They also have some more subtle techniques in their arsenal. How about this for cologne: the male deer urinate and wallow in mud hollows – the pungent scent being (apparently) very attractive to the females!
The two species of deer have quite different breeding strategies. The Fallow males (bucks) hold ‘a stand’, meaning they stay in one territory, usually on higher or rising ground, where they can be seen and heard by the females. The Red males (stags), the largest British land mammal, will take control of a group or ‘harem’ of females (hinds) and continually move around and defend the hinds, fighting off any young pretenders.
Visitors to the parkland will be able to witness the deer rut throughout the autumn, until the end of November. Please do not approach or disturb the deer.
The Parkland is open every day 10am – 7pm (last entry 6pm) until October 27th. From Oct 27th until March 28th it is open Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm (last entry 4pm). Park entry £5 per car.