Members of the incredibly varied Cervidae family, deer come in all shapes and sizes, a point perhaps best made by comparing the 1600 lb, 8’ moose of Canada to the 12 lb, 14” northern pudu of South America.
This rather nebulous range of appearances makes deer a fascinating group of creatures to study, but it can also cause a lot of confusion, as there are distinct cosmetic and physiological overlaps between deer and animals that belong to completely different families.
For instance, many believe pronghorn to be a species of deer, but although they too are ungulates (having hoofs), they actually belong to the family Antilocapridae.
So, to clear up this cross-order chaos, today, we’ll be taking a closer look at all the animals that look similar to deer and figuring out what sets them apart.
20 Common Animals That Share Similarities and Look Related to Deer
1 — Pronghorn
Let’s start with the animal we’ve already briefly discussed, the pronghorn.
Pronghorn look extremely similar to deer in that they have the same body shape, the same kind of legs, and they have a lot of the same physical abilities as deer.
However, as mentioned above, they actually belong to the family Antilocapridae, of which they are the only surviving member.
Despite the apparent similarities between these two animals, the deer isn’t even considered a close relative of the pronghorn.
Genetically speaking, these interesting creatures are more closely related to giraffes and okapi.
Many also erroneously believe pronghorns to be antelope, but again, although they look very similar, pronghorns are their own thing!
2 — Blackbuck
The long spiral horns of the male blackbuck ain’t fooling anybody — If you see one of these animals, you’ll instantly know it’s not a deer.
However, female blackbucks look almost identical to deer, so much so that, for many, the only clue as to what they are will be the location of the sighting.
Blackbuck are native to India and Nepal, and despite their rather deer-ish appearance, they are in fact a species of antelope.
However, much like deer, they prefer lightly forested and grassy plains near water sources.
While they are hunted, thankfully, they currently rank as LC (Least Concern) on the IUCN conservation status spectrum.
3 — Chinkara
Though the desert expanses and dry scrub of Iran, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan seem quite inhospitable, if you’re lucky, you may spot a chinkara in these arid areas.
From a distance, they resemble deer, but upon closer inspection, the short horns betray their true lineage — They are in fact a species of gazelle!
How do they survive in such challenging conditions, you ask?
Well, they can go without water for extended periods, as the moisture within the plants they eat as well as the dew that collects on the shrubbery at night is all they need for sustenance.
In many ways, the desert is the perfect hang for them, as they do all they can to avoid human habitation.
Unfortunately, however, chinkara have a number of other predators to worry about, such as Asiatic lions, Bengal tigers, and leopards.
4 — Gemsbok
Gemsbok are a large species of gazelle in the genus Oryx. While their coat is very distinctive, their general body shape is not unlike that of a strong buck.
Much like the chinkara, the gemsbok inhabits extremely arid regions, most notably the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa.
Rather unusually, both male and female Gemsbok have horns, yet it’s this very feature that stands as the only outward way to tell male and female gemsbok apart.
The horns of male gemsbok are shorter and thicker, while the horns of female gemsbok are longer and thinner.
5 — Giant Sable
Giant sable are a majestic species of antelope with large back-swooping horns and a horse-like mane growing from behind the ears to just over the halfway point of their spine.
In African mythology, they are symbolic of speed and sight, which is why you’ll find them on Angolan stamps and banknotes.
Their horns can grow to an incredible 60 inches, and they survive primarily on tree leaves but will forage for a wide array of snacks in the grasses of their native land.
6 — Greater Kudu
We’re staying in Africa for our next deer look-alike, the great kudu.
This large ungulate mammal is similar to deer in that it has a sleek, narrow torso, but the white streaks along its flanks tell us otherwise.
They inhabit woodlands throughout southern and eastern Africa, which is a fairly broad continental distribution, but due to habitat destruction, there are rarely high numbers of them in any one place across Africa.
Although their genus Tragelaphus is Greek for “goat (trag) deer (elaphos)”, they’re actually a type of antelope.
The male form grows into a shape that ever so slightly resembles a camel, albeit with large spiraling horns reaching back and toward the sky.
7 — Chevrotain
Chevrotain may just be the cutest creature on the planet! More commonly known by their informal name, mouse-deer, strangely they are neither mouse nor deer.
They actually belong to a family known as Tragulidae, and they’re the smallest ungulate animals in the world.
For the most part, these shy creatures inhabit the dense forests of South and Southeast Asia.
However, one of the 10 surviving chevrotain species known as the water chevrotain lives in the rainforests of West and Central Africa.
8 — Nilgai
The largest of the Asian antelopes, Nilgai can measure 5ft to the shoulder and well over 6ft to the tip of their short dark horns.
Their name literally translates as blue cow, as their coat is often blue in the same way a Weimaraner dog’s coat is considered blue, and despite their slight, deer-like heads, their large bodies do bring to mind those of cows.
9 — Nyala
Nyala are dead ringers for deer in terms of body shape, but their hyena-esque spiky dorsal crest is extremely distinctive.
They also have comparatively large ears, and males have a sub-crest of hair that runs along their chest.
As is often the case, the females of the species look more deer-like than the males, but a sequence of thin white stripes that run down their sides are a clear distinguishing factor.
10 — Takin
With insanely muscular shoulders and front legs, takin are perhaps the least deer-like deer-like creatures in this post, if you catch my drift.
They’re actually a species of goat-antelope, and they’re far more stocky than deer, with deep chests and large hooves — You wouldn’t want to meet one of these things down a dark alley!
Mostly found in the Eastern Himalayas, both male and female takin have interesting horns that run backwards parallel to their heads before spiraling upwards to point to the sky.
They’re considered a vulnerable species due to overhunting and habitat destruction.
11 — Roan Antelope
Roan antelope have exceedingly thick necks, so you’re probably not going to mistake one for a deer, but their slender legs are more convincing.
Picture this if you will… a deer crossed with a horse crossed with a hyena, and you’re looking at a roan antelope.
As I’m sure you’ve surmised, the roan is in fact an antelope, not a deer, and its name refers to the reddish-brown coloring that covers its entire body but for its face which is black with white accents around the eyebrows and cheeks.
12 — Urial
The urial is a wild sheep native to India, but thanks to some particularly long legs and large coiling horns, they do look very deer-ish at times, although they often have bushy “goatee” beards, which should be a pretty clear indication that they’re not deer.
Urial prefer living at altitude, so you’ll most likely only ever catch a glimpse of them if you’re exploring a select few mountainous regions around the globe.
The Pamir Mountains, Himalayas, and Hindu Kush, for instance, are all urial hotspots.
13 — Addax
Referred to in some circles as the white antelope, addax are a critically endangered species of antelope native to the Sahara Desert.
The remarkable thing about this creature is the chameleonic ability to change color, but rather than changing hue to blend into their environment, they alter their appearance to endure temperature changes as the seasons unfold.
During the colder months, their coat is grayish-brown, and when the warmer months come around, their coat becomes pure white, or in some instances, very pale blonde.
Needless to say, this has made them a popular target for hunters, which has been a key factor in their rapid decline over the years.
14 — Chamois Colored Goat
If you saw a chamois colored goat up close, there’s no way you’d mistake it for a deer, but from a distance, the long, thin neck and tan coloring may well give you the wrong idea.
Native to Switzerland, these rather elegant goats made their way through various means across Austria and Italy.
They have two black patches above their eyebrows from which arcing horns stretch backwards, and they’re entirely domestic, meaning you’d have to visit a farm in one of the aforementioned nations in order to see one in the flesh.
15 — Speke’s Gazelle
The Speke’s gazelle is the smallest gazelle species on the planet and inhabits the northern “horn” of Africa exclusively where it seeks out grass steppes, semi desert, and stony brush.
Unfortunately, due to persistent habitat fragmentation, the Speke’s Gazelle is now categorized as an endangered species, but a captive population is well maintained.
They’re named for John Hanning Speke, a British explorer of the mid-1800s, who focused most of his resources on African excursions.
Two African lizards and another two African mammals bear his name in one form or another.
16 — Klipspringer
Klipspringer are only very small creatures, so you wouldn’t mistake them for full-grown deer, but the untrained eye may well believe them to be deer fawns of one of the various deer species.
In reality, they’re small species of antelope native to eastern and Southern Africa.
On average, they measure 43 to 60 cm from ground to shoulder, yet, despite their small stature, they’re incredibly sturdy, and unlike most of their antelope cousins, they’re largely monogamous.
It’s not unheard of for mates to stay so for life, and throughout their relationship, they rarely venture more than 5 meters from one another — Cuuuute!!!
17 — Suni
Suni are yet another micro-antelope that look the spit of deer fawns, as they only ever reach heights of between 12 and 17 inches.
Their coloring is also reminiscent of a deer, with dark brown upper bodies and white necks and underbellies.
They’re famous for their unusual barking and whistling sounds, and despite having a number of natural predators, suni populations are in no danger of thinning out.
Male suni grow short, ridged, backwards curving horns, while female suni remain hornless their entire lives.
They’re very social creatures but only within their territories, and they need almost no free water to survive, as they get most of the moisture they need from fruits, flowers, leaves, and fungi.
18 — Impala
Impala can be found in southern and eastern Africa, and although you’d swear that they were a type of deer, they’re, once again, antelopes.
They have a much lighter coloring than most deer species, and they’re incredibly lean creatures, more so than deer.
Male impala grow long, lyre-shaped horns, but females maintain their doe-like appearance.
They survive by grazing on various plants such as acacia pods, monocots, and fruit, and are famous for their dual-bound anti-predation technique.
19 — Oribi
They don’t get more deer-like than the female oribi!
These creatures have long slender necks, ears that fan out to survey their environment sonically, and delicate almost rodent-esque faces, but, you’ve guessed it… they’re antelope.
They inhabit all regions of Africa bar the north and may subscribe to polyandry, polygyny, or polygynandry during the mating season… basically anything but monogamy.
They prefer tropical grasslands, floodplains, and savannas, but can be found at a massive range of altitudes, and perhaps due to their rather adventurous love life, they are classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN conservation status spectrum.
20 — Springbok
Our final deer doppelgänger is the majestic springbok of south and southwest Africa.
Identifiable by their long diamond-shaped ears, inwardly curving horns (both male and female), and dark stripe that runs between the mouth and eye, these medium-sized antelopes are a sight to behold, especially if you catch them “pronking”.
The reason behind the Springbok’s pronking is still unknown, but it’s thought to be a means of communicating to any carnivores lurking nearby that they won’t be easy to catch, thus encouraging their natural predators to pick different targets.
As you now know, there are a number of quadrupeds that all look at least vaguely deer-like, so it’s easy to mistake them for one another.
However, pretty much all of these imposters are types of gazelle or exotic goats, so here in the US, it’s almost impossible for us to run into them anywhere other than the zoo.
As such, if you see what looks like a deer on your next wilderness excursion, the chances are it’s just that… a deer!