Fallow Deer (Dama dama)
These elegant deer have long been prized as ornamental species and their history is closely linked to that of deer parks. Fallow deer were first brought to Britain from the western Mediterranean during the Roman period, when they were kept within enclosures known as ‘vivaria’. Genetic analysis has shown that these Roman fallow deer went extinct in Britain following the collapse of the Roman Empire. It was not until the 11th century that fallow deer were reintroduced, this time from the eastern Mediterranean. Initially they were kept in parks as rare exotica but gradually their populations increased and they became an important source of venison for aristocratic tables. As the fashion for deer parks declined in the 15th century, many parks fell into disrepair and these medieval escapee deer are the foundation of the free-living population in Britain today.