Fallow deer have a fascinating history in Britain. Fossil evidence shows that they were present before the last Ice Age.
No one is certain as to when Fallow deer were reintroduced; some have said it was the Phoenicians, others the Romans who were responsible. Written records from the Saxon period do not specifically name the Fallow deer, but Norman records do. It can therefore be assumed that the Norman nobility was responsible for their reintroduction from the end of the 11th century.
Fallow deer were classified as 'Beasts of the Forest' and hence they belonged to the King. Royal permission was granted to noblemen to establish chases on their estates; however authority was still required from the monarch before hunting could take place. Many of the nobility therefore enclosed their own parks where they had control over all the game and could hunt when they wanted.
Being both decorative and providing a much needed source of food,Fallow deer were introduced into the estates of the Norman nobility for sport and to boost the owner's social standing. Deer parks had their heyday in the early Tudor period. During the reign of Henry VIII it has been estimated that a 20th of the realm was employed in the cultivation and harvesting of deer and rabbits.
By the Elizabethan and Stuart period these were in decline and Fallow deer underwent a further decline in the 18th century with the increase in popularity of shooting sports and the fashion for fox hunting. With escapees and releases through a reduction in the number of parks between the World Wars to maximize food production areas, the local wild populations of Fallow deer have gone through a number of periodic surges.
Many areas now have Fallow deer which have developed their own local characteristics. An excellent example of this phenomenon is the Long Haired Fallow of the Mortimer Forest in Shropshire, England. These were first discovered and documented in 1953 by Gerald Springthorpe, a Forestry Commission Ranger, and, titled Dama dama springthorpeii. They do not occur anywhere else in the world.