Although deer aren’t the fastest animal on land, they can sprint pretty fast. Their swiftness varies slightly depending on the particular species – for instance, research shows that mule deer may be the fastest deer in North America.

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Join me in this deep dive into how fast deer can run and whether you, your horse or your dog can outdo these hooved creatures.

Are Deer Fast Runners?

There are numerous species of deer in North America, each living in varying habitats and facing different ecological pressures in their day-to-day lives. Because of their differing environmental contexts, they may have evolved to reach a wide range of speeds while running.

Plus, the speed at which they run will change depending on their reason for running. For example, a deer is likely to run much more quickly when a predator is pursuing it, yet, high testosterone levels might drive a buck to sprint after female deer during mating season, too.

However, casual travel through woodland or across a desert is likely to merit a much more relaxed pace from an individual or a group of deer. Further, a deer is far less likely to run at such high speeds during the winter months. Food is scarce at this time, and the energy costs would be too high, given the minimal supply.

In general, you can catch most deer running at an average speed of 35-40 miles per hour (55-65 km/h). Experts list this as the possible speed for most of the deer population. This means that natural selection has generally resulted in almost any deer’s ability to run this fast, although they might not do it regularly, if at all.

To give you an idea of the deer’s varying physicalities, here are three examples of deer running speeds according to their species.


White-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus virginianus

The white-tailed deer (also known as “whitetail deer”) is a species more common to the eastern half of the United States. Their entire habitat range extends from southern Canada, all the way down to Panama, skipping the western and southwestern regions of the US.

Whitetail deer are gentle giants, standing at an average 3 ft 6 in at the shoulder and weighing in at 203-405 lbs for males and 155-218 lbs for females.

They can carry themselves swiftly across the land, though, reaching speeds up to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) when they deem it necessary. Normally, though, these animals also move in the following gait patterns:

WalkingTrottingBounding

If you’re lucky, you might also come across a deer swimming! During the summer, they may wade into the water to forage yummy plant material.

When it comes to running, though, there are a few things that may scare this deer into a swift sprint. You are one of them!

Humans are a predatory species in the eyes of herbivorous critters like deer, so if you walk into an area and surprise these ungulates (hooved mammals), you’ll give it quite the spook and send it running into the vegetation.

Mule Deer, Odocoileus hemonius

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Planning to go horseback hunting? If so, you might want to get an idea of how fast your horse is capable of traveling before you head out to the backcountry.

One thing you should consider straight away is that your horse is significantly bigger than a deer. Plus, it doesn’t belong to the group Artiodactyla, so the rule mentioned earlier about mass being independent to speed may not apply.

Like the differing deer species discussed above, different types of horses have varying levels of talent when it comes to reaching their top speeds.

Thankfully, lots of research has been done into Thoroughbreds, so we’ve got lots of scientific insight into how fast these animals can truly get.

(I know, odds are you won’t be riding a Thoroughbred when you’re hunting down deer. Still, this information provides a useful baseline to help shape your expectations.)

Firstly, galloping horses can generally reach speeds up to 40 mph (65 km/h). They’re considered to be one of the fastest land animals in the world.

Their gait is powered by their incredible muscles, rippling through their entire body with dense concentrations running through their legs and buttocks. No wonder humans chose them as our go-to steed!

Still, there might be slight variations in their capabilities, depending on breed. For example, Quarter Horses are renowned as the fastest breed of horse worldwide. A study compared these horses’ speed to Arabians and Thoroughbreds and came up with the following results:

Quarter Horses: 22.3-57.5 mph (36-93 km/h)Thoroughbreds: 22.4-52.1 mph (36-83 km/h)Arabians: 20.3-33.9 mph (33-55 km/h)

As you can see, Arabians are the slowest of the bunch. Yet, it’s clear as day that horses are significantly faster than deer. So, if your buck gets away, you can trail it, no sweat.

Can a Dog Outrun a Deer?

Another popular practice among hunters is hunting with dogs. Admittedly, this is more common with animals like cougars (e.g., many hunters prefer to tree their cats with a pack of hounds). However, you might still be interested in trying it with deer hunting.

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With that said, your dog should be able to run down a deer if you’re going to bring it out to the field. You don’t want a sluggish canine slowing you down.

Just like the other animals discussed here so far, dogs’ speeds vary by breed. Here are some examples of what you can expect from your canine companions:

Greyhound: 45 mph (72 km/h)Vizsla: 40 mph (64 km/h)German shepherd: 30 mph (48 km/h)Boxer: 35 mph (56 km/h)