What’s the Difference Between a Deer and an Antelope? 8 Surprising Facts You Didn’t Know

noticeable differences between a deer and an antelope

Even for people who are enthusiastic about wildlife and love nature, it can be difficult to discern the small differences between a deer and an antelope. Both of these mammals are large and furry herbivores that like to inhabit wild grassy areas. Antelopes and deer have a close resemblance since they are quadrupedal mammals that have horns or antlers on top of their head.

They are both herd animals and travel together for safety and security. With strong legs and a large physique, both antelopes and deer are known for being skittish and quick. To learn about what sets them apart even after looking so similar, read about the following differences between a deer and an antelope:

Here Are Some of the 8 Major Differences between a Deer and an Antelope

1. Family and Origin

Although deer and antelopes have so many similarities in how they look, these two animals belong to two different scientific families. They have a common order called Artiodactyla since both animals are even-toes hoofed. Nevertheless, deer belong to the family known as Cervidae, which only consists of deer species.

There are 47 deer species in the Cervidae family which include elk, moose, roe deer, and reindeer. In comparison, the antelopes belong to a completely different animal family called the Bovidae family. This family of animals consists of 135 species of goats, buffaloes, cattle, and antelopes. The connection between cattle and antelopes is much closer in the family, even though deer and antelopes may look extremely similar to each other.

2. Shape of Antlers

Many people cannot differentiate between deer and antelopes since they have similar-looking antlers and horns on the top of their heads. These antlers make them look like majestic creatures, a fact that makes them look so much more attractive to humans.

Deer have antlers on top of their head, which are branched and have a beautiful structure to them. They use these antlers to impress the females and show dominance to other male deer of the herd during mating season.

On the other hand, antelopes have horns on their head that can be ridged, straight, twisted, or curved. Antelopes use their well-shaped horns to defend themselves within the herd or to fight other predators or rival animals.

A male deer with antlers

3. Habitat

One of the main differences between antelopes and deer is that they originate and inhabit in different parts of the world. The natural habitat for antelopes is in Africa and Eurasia. The Saiga Antelope and the Tibetan Antelope are found in Central Asia and Russia, whereas the Arabian Oryx and Dorcas are native to the Arabian Peninsula.

Chinkara, Blackbuck, Four-horned, and Nilgai antelope are most commonly found in India, while only the pronghorn antelope is found in North America. Antelopes live in a diverse range of habitats, and while some species of antlers are sedentary, many species undertake a massive migration as the seasons change. There are a total of 71 antelope species present in Africa, while Asia has 14 various antelope species native to the region.

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On the contrary, deer are native to everywhere in the world except Australia and Antarctica but were introduced to the regions in the 1800s. Most of Asia and North America has different variety and species of deer native to the region, while only the Red Deer is native to Africa. Deer live in a variety of habitats which include tropical rainforest to even tundra.

4. Speed

Antelopes have been known to be faster than deer, but it all depends on the species of antelopes. Nevertheless, the fastest antelope will definitely be faster than the quickest deer. The top speed for an antelope has been measured to be around 50 to 53 miles per hour.

Some species of the antelopes, such as the pronghorn antelope, can give cheetahs and lions a run for their money as they are incredible sprinters and can easily escape and outrun these predators. A cheetah is, although faster than an antelope, will not chase an antelope down if it starts sprinting at its top speed from the get-go. Antelopes have amazing stamina and can easily maintain a speed of 27 miles per hour for long distances.

On the other hand, some species of deer can sprint incredibly fast but can only maintain their speed for shorter distances. The white-tailed deer can run up to 35 miles per hour but will slow down after getting tired soon. The fastest speed recorded for a deer is around 40 miles per hour which is quite low in comparison with the top speed of a strong antelope.

A group of antelopes

5. Lifespan

There is a large difference in the lifespan of deer and antelopes. While they look similar and are both herd animals that have incredible stamina and speed, there is a significant difference between how long a deer or an antelope will live.

A deer is supposed to have a lifespan of around twenty years. Nevertheless, most deer only live up to ten years due to the culling that takes place in the wild. Many white-tailed deer only live up to 2 to 3 years in the wild. Many environmental factors also come into play when we try to learn why deer do not live as long as they should in the wild.

The widespread poaching is a difficult matter that challenges the lifespan of the antlers as well. Antelopes are supposed to live for a lifespan of about 25 years. Nevertheless, experts cannot truly determine the lifespan of antelopes in the wild since older and slower antelopes are often preferred by predators, which makes recording their age difficult.

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Wildebeest and impalas are some of the antelopes that have been kept in captivity and thrived more than their teenage years. The wildebeest in captivity have been recorded to live more than 20 years, while the impalas were noted to have reached their late teenage years.

6. Life of Antlers

One of the most prominent differences between a deer and an antelope includes the life of the antlers or horns of their head. Both of these animals have headgear, but with close inspection, you will be able to tell them apart. For some species of antelopes, both the males and females of the herd grow a pair of permanent horns on their heads.

On the other hand, only the male animals of the deer species can grow a pair of antlers. These antlers are not permanent and are shed every winter. The antlers have an ornate branched look and regrow on the male deer’s heads every spring. These antlers have a beautifully complex appearance and grow into different points. Nevertheless, the horns of an antelope are much longer and stronger than a deer’s antlers.

7. Number of Species

A major difference between a deer and an antelope is that there are a different number of species for both animals. There have been roughly 91 species of antelopes recognized all over the world, with most of them belonging to Africa. Aside from the different species of antelopes present in the world, there are smaller categories called sub-species which have divided this class of animals into further categories.

The blue duiker is one of the most popular types of antelope by population and is found on the African continent. The royal antelope is one of the smallest species of antelope found in the world and is also found in Africa.

There are fewer species of deer than antelopes, with only 43 species recognized worldwide. These species of deer originate from all over the world and have different characteristics and features that set them apart. Most deer species are found in wooded areas and are known to be skittish.

An antelope in the wild

8. Size

Antelopes have been known to be much larger than deer in size. Antelopes have been recorded to weigh around 110 to 2000 pounds and have a height of about 3 feet to 9 feet tall at the shoulder. Even with their large size, antelopes have a much higher level of speed that allows them to outrun their predators and leave them in the dust.

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On the other hand, deer are much smaller and more lightweight. They can weigh from 110 pounds to 900 pounds, a figure which is significantly less than an antelope. The size of the deer depends on the species and the age of the deer. Deer have been recorded to have a height of about 2 feet to 4 feet at the shoulder, which is much smaller when compared to the average height of an antelope.

What Are the Differences between Deer and Antelope – Comparison and Hidden Facts

Deer and antelope are often inaccurately classified as many can be mistaken that an antelope is a deer. In spite of related appearances, deer and antelopes belong to two different scientific animal families. Both antelopes and deer are members of the order Artiodactyla, which comprises even-toed hoofed mammals. Nonetheless, deer belong to a family known as Cervidae, while antelopes belong to the Bovidae family.


With hundreds of different species of animals all over the world, it cannot be easy to distinguish between two similar-looking animals. With this article, you will have learned that even though deer and antelopes may look almost identical, they are two completely different animals.

There are major and minor differences between a deer and an antelope, but observing those differences requires a sharp eye and adequate knowledge of the two species. With the difference in height, weight, antler shape and size, the number of species, speeds, and native habitats, there are a variety of differences that can be noted easily if you know which attribute belongs to which animal.

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