Can Deer be Domesticated? (Only Reindeer!)

Deer can be tamed and domesticated. However, the vast majority of deer are not fully domesticated like cows, cats or dogs. The only species of deer that is truly domesticated is the reindeer.

Deer farming is something that exists in different parts of the world. When we put deer in pens and tame them, they can thrive and breed in their pens. But simply penning a deer does not domesticate it.

A truly domesticated animal is one that has evolved over generations to thrive living in the presence of humans.

When penning deer, the conditions in which the deer are kept under are an important factor to consider. Their environment should be as close to natural as possible.

Can Deer be Domesticated

It is also important to consider whether it is legal to farm deer in your state. Make sure to research on rules of which animals are legal to farm and those that are not.

Why are Reindeer Domesticated?

Deer species such as reindeer are put into domestic fields for labor, meat, milk and hides.

Reindeer are commonly domesticated in Scandinavia. They are trained for transportation, kept as pets, and bred for their meat and hide.

They are also farmed by indigenous people in arctic and subarctic mostly for meat.

Fun Fact: In North America, domesticated reindeer are called reindeer, but untamed wild reindeer are called caribou.

Reindeer produce various products like meat, milk and hides. Their milk contains a higher amount of fat and protein compared to milk from other animals. When compared to cow milk, deer milk has 10 grams more fat, 6 grams more protein and 2 grams less lactose per every 100 grams of milk.

Deer meat, venison, is considered a delicacy in many areas. It is commonly praised for its low fat content and large amounts of vitamins and minerals. Their meat is also free of carbohydrates and contains fewer calories than other forms of beef. 

Their hides make excellent leather products such as coats and gloves. This is because it is warm and soft. Their hide is also used to make floor rugs. They also make beautiful decorations when mounted on the wall.

Reindeer are also used as beasts of burden. They are strong with wide hooves perfect for pulling sledges through snow. Ethnic Sayan people are also known to saddle and use them as a means of transportation.

Why aren’t Deer Commonly Domesticated?

Domesticated animals have specific behavior. They ate commonly calm and easy to control. Deer are however the opposite if this.

Deer are skittish animals. They are constantly on edge and tend to escape when approached. This makes them hard to approach and catch with the intentions to extract products like milk from them.

They are also not as strong as other animals like cattle and horses. This means that they cannot be used as draft animals to pull heavy farm equipment like ploughs.

Deer are also expensive to keep. They have strong legs and are commonly known to escape their enclosures. This will require you to put up high fences, which leads to unnecessary additional costs. Deer are also prone to diseases and their medication is generally expensive.

It is also important to note that deer, especially males are aggressive. They tend to fight a lot especially during mating season and can attack without warning. They are known to attack dogs, sheep and other small farm animals without reason as a way to defend their territories.

Deer are also expensive to domesticate as they require large pieces of land for them to thrive. They also require constant medical attention as they are susceptible to diseases.

Read More: White Deer Symbolism

Rules and regulations vary across different localities. Some states and countries forbid the farming of deer while others allow it.

It is illegal to own a deer in most states in the United States of America. The laws in these states prohibit the domestication of these animals unless one is a licensed wildlife expert.

Various reasons make deer domestication illegal. First the animals, especially the bucks are very aggressive. They are even more aggressive when it is mating season and their testosterone levels are high. They are known to attack and knock down humans with their large antlers.

Deer are also susceptible to diseases. They are known to spread diseases such as foot and mouth Disease and tuberculosis to other farm animals.

Countries such as Scandinavia have no laws that prohibit the farming of deer. This is because in some of these countries the local community depends on deer for food and revenue.

How do Deer Live in Captivity?

For deer to live comfortably in captivity, their environment must be as closely related to the wild as possible.

Several things must be taken into consideration before domesticating deer. Below are some of the factors to consider:

Space – Deer prefer to be kept in large spaces where they can roam around freely. Ensure that the land is big enough to accommodate the entire herd and has a lot of trees to provide shade for the deer during summer. Also ensure that there is plenty of water for the deer to use.

Fencing – One needs to ensure that they can’t escape to the wild. Having sturdy tall fences prevents the deer from jumping over and escaping. It also helps keep predators out ensuring the safety of the herd.

Food and water- deer are herbivores and generally feed on vegetation. Ensure the area has a lot of grass and shrubs for the deer to feed on. There are also various alternatives to their natural diet like deer pellets, cereal grains, hay or alfalfa. One should also ensure there is a constant supply of water for the deer to consume, especially during hot summer days.



The only truly domesticated deer are reindeer. There are various upsides and downsides to the domestication of reindeer. First of all, their domestication can be very beneficial as people can profit from selling some of their products like meat, milk and hide. Some of them can also be used as labor for pulling sleds and other transport equipment as commonly seen in the arctic.

Regular deer are however not domesticated animals. While you can hold them in captivity, they don’t meet the definition of domestication because they remain captive wild animals, not animals who have over generations evolved to live comfortably with humans.

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