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African Deer Guide: Meet the Barbary Stag (Africa’s Only Deer)

Africa is known for having all sorts of wonderful animals, including a wide variety of antelopes. But what about African deer? In this article, you’ll learn all about the only African deer. We’ll also discuss what all the other deer-like animals in Africa are.

The only deer native to Africa is the Barbary stag (Cervus elaphus barbarus). At one point, there were two species of deer in Africa. The Megaceroides algericus went extinct millennia ago. Now, the only living deer that is native to Africa is the Barbary stag.

african deer

Quick Facts About Africa’s Deer

  • Common Name: Barbary Stag
  • Other Names: Atlas Deer, African Elk
  • Trinomial Name: Cervus elaphus barbarus
  • Location: Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia in Northern Africa
  • Habitat: Dense mountain forest
  • Weight: between 180 and 240 pounds (80 and 110 kilograms)
  • Length: between 35-55 inches (90-140 centimeters)
  • Physical Appearence: reddish brown with white spots, males have antlers

Meet the Barbary Stag

The Barbary stag is also known as the Atlas deer and the African elk.

Scientifically, it is known as Cervus elaphus barbarus, and is a subspecies of red deer.

Barbary stags haven’t been studied to the same extent as other animals, so there is still lots left to learn about them.

What does a Barbary Stag look like?

Being a subspecies of the red deer, their hair is a reddish-brown color. White spots are scattered across their flank and back.

The Barbary stag is smaller than most other red deer species. The males grow to be 51-55 inches long (130-140 centimeters), while the female is slightly smaller at 35-39 inches (90-100 centimeters).

Their weight ranges between 180 and 240 pounds (80 and 110 kilograms), with the male weighing more than the female.

Male Barbary stags grow antlers.

barbary stag appearance

Where does the Barbary Stag live?

The Barbary stag lives in dense, humid, forested areas.

When you combine the three names of this animal, you can easily identify its location in the world.

As a reminder, those three names are African Elk, Barbary Stag, and Atlas Deer. So it lives in Africa, in the Barbary Region (part of Northern Africa), in the Atlas Mountains.

The three African countries where you can find the Barbary Stag are Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.

One specific park where you can find this deer is the Tazekka National Park in the Middle Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The Barbary Stag had disappeared from this area, but was reintroduced in 1994. Since then the original group of 8 individuals has grown to include 71 members.

Learn more about the highest mountains in Africa.

What does the Barbary Stag eat?

Like other red deer, Barbary stags are herbivores. They eat a variety of green vegetation including plants, and leaves found on shrubs and trees.

They adjust their diets depending on what is available as the seasons change.

Red deer are ruminants. Their stomachs are divided into four chambers.

Barbary stags will regurgitate the contents of their first stomach and eat it again. This is called “chewing the cud.”

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What threats does the Barbary Stag face?

Unfortunately, as with many animal species, the biggest threat to their existence is human activity.

Constructions of roads and expanding residential areas have cut into their natural habitat. Forest fires have also killed a number of Barbary stag.

And as numbers have dwindled, they’ve become a prized animal for members of some hunting parties.

Human conflict in the area has also had disastrous consequences.

Animal Predators

While humans are the biggest threat, Barbary deer also have a few animal predators. Among these are African wolves, and hyenas.

Past predators include the Barbary lion and the Atlas bear. Both of these species are now extinct.

Is the Barbary Stag endangered?

The Barbary stag was last listed as endangered in July of 1979.

Honestly, it is hard to say what the current population status of the Barbary stag is. At one point they were on the brink of extinction. A formal count hasn’t been done for decades.

In some areas, the population was completely wiped out.

But as is the case with Tazekka National Park in Morocco, some populations have been reintroduced. Most of these deer are now found in protected national parks.

So hopefully we will see a rise in their population.

What is the difference between Deer and Antelope?

At a quick glance, deer and antelope look very similar. So what are the differences?

Both deer and antelope belong to the Artiodactyla order of animals. But so do pigs, hippopotamuses, camels, and many other animals.

Different Family Classifications

  • Deer belong to the Cervidae family (along with reindeer and moose).
  • Antelope are members of the Bovidae family (along with sheep, goats, and cattle).

Horns and Antlers

The biggest difference is to be found on the top of their head.

  • Deer have antlers. These are shed yearly. They grow in branched-out intricate designs. Mostly male deer will grow antlers.
  • Antelopes have horns. Antelope horns come in different shapes and sizes. They are never shed. All male antelope grow horns, and females in up to two-thirds of the antelope species will also grow horns.

Here are 6 differences between antlers and horns.

african deer species

Learn about the biggest and smallest antelopes in Africa.

Your Turn

Have you ever seen a Barbary stag? What other facts would you add to my list? Let me know in the comments below.


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