The autumn rut at Knole
The rut is the deers’ mating season. It happens every autumn, when antlers and egos are fully grown and testosterone runs high.
Male deer, known as bucks, assert their dominance by fighting each other with their antlers. The stronger the buck, the more likely he is to father children. The rut begins and ends in a matter of days, so competition is fierce.
Different species of deer rut at different times. Fallow deer normally rut at the beginning of October, followed by the Sika deer later in the month.
The soundtrack to the Fallow rut is the low, percussive grunting of the bucks, which is often quite loud. Sikas tend to whistle instead.
Despite these differences, there is a common theme to both ruts - the scramble for territory, known as ‘stands’. Often linked to how visible bucks are (and how likely they are to attract admirers) prime real estate is central and higher than other areas in the park. Echo Mount is a particular favourite spot in Knole Park.
During the rut, Fallow bucks often return to the same stand year after year. Sikas are less attached to one site but are very territorial during the rut.
After the rut, things calm down for the winter. In the springtime, the antlers that all male deer grow, and bucks use to prove their manliness, fall off. This is a process known as ‘casting’.
Large bucks cast their antlers first, in March. The younger deer and those with smaller antlers cast theirs later, in April and May. They’ll all grow new ones later in the year.
The first fawns from last year’s rut arrive in early June, meaning gestation is around 230 days. Fawns go through three coats of fur when growing up. After that, their coats only change from summer to winter.
If you find a young deer hidden in the rushes, it's very important not to touch it. It’s probably been hidden there by its mother, who leaves it for the day and comes back in the evening to feed it. If deer don’t recognise the scent of their young, they may abandon them.
The deer at Knole
Knole is very fortunate to be home to a 350-strong deer herd, which visitors enjoy seeing in their natural habitat year-round. While these beautiful creatures can appear to be friendly, they are wild animals - seen at their best from a respectful distance.
Find out more
The deer get all the food they need from the park grassland and from Knole's Park and Deer Keeper Dom Andrews. You can find out how Dom cares for the deer and what to look out for in the ancient estate in his seasonal blog below.
We will also be running a series of guided walks in Knole Park this autumn. Full details of our ramble to Ightham Mote, archaeology walk, and Dom's autumn rut deer keeping session can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/knole/whats-on