Yorkshire’s own big beasts locked together in autumnal ritual

PIC: James Hardisty
PIC: James Hardisty

The sight of giant, testosterone-fuelled stags locking horns is one of wildlife’s great autumnal spectacles in the British countryside.

This annual red deer rut, pictured here on the Harewood Estate, sees stags chase rivals and bellow warnings as they fight for supremacy.

The victors take the female spoils, while the losers are left licking their wounds and the possible consolation of appearing in a dramatic photo.

October is the height of the rutting season when stags compete against one another for a female’s (hind’s) attention by engaging in elaborate displays of dominance including roaring and fighting. These battles are often fierce and can lead to serious injuries and sometimes even death.

It’s a high price to pay but these dramatic ruts that’s been witnessed in this country for centuries.

Red deer are a native species having migrated to Britain from Europe around 11,000 years ago and they are now our largest land mammal.

Harewood House estate, seven miles or so north of Leeds, has been home to a deer park since medieval times and has three types of deer spread over some 4,000 acres of land.

There are roughly 155 red deer, 45 fallow and 45 roe deer at present with the number fluctuating when the calves are born in early summer.

The red deer, once rare in some parts of Europe, is now one of the most numerous deer species. Successful reintroduction and conservation efforts, particularly in this country, have led to a noticeable increase in their numbers.

It’s interesting to note that red deer vary in colour depending on the season and habitat in which they live – they tend to have a grey or lighter colour in winter and then adopt a more reddish and darker coat during the summer months.

But whatever the colour of their coats they are never less than majestic and we are lucky to have them right here on our doorstep.

Technical details: Nikon D3s camera, Nikon 300mm lens with a 2x teleconverter, exposure of 1/800th sec @ f/5.6, ISO 640.