I have translated "deer" into German. I have found two translations there:

  • der Hirsch
  • das Reh

I am studying the difference between them.

Hypothesis: Hirsch is a male deer, Reh is a female deer.

  • 8
    Your hyposisy is wrong: de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirsche de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reh (both articles are also available in English)
    – Iris
    Oct 31, 2016 at 11:54
  • 6
    Funnily, this is what pretty much everybody thinks (hunters and forresters exempted). I bet if I asked the next random person on the street, they'd say "female deer".
    – Damon
    Oct 31, 2016 at 22:58
  • As an aside: the German cognate of English "deer" is "Tier", which means "animal". Funny how meanings wander. Nov 1, 2016 at 17:21
  • @ScottWallace In German hunter’s jargon regarding (Rot-)Hirsche, a Tier is in fact a female deer whereas a Hirsch is male when in doubt. Female Rehe, on the other hand, are called Ricke (I think also Geiß in the South) and male ones Bock, similar to goats (Ziegen). Also see the list at Wikipedia.
    – Crissov
    Nov 2, 2016 at 6:12
  • @Crissov- thanks, fascinating. I've never heard that usage of "Tier" here in Austria, but I must admit I'm not that familiar with hunter's jargon. Grüße aus kühlem Wien, Scott Nov 2, 2016 at 7:32

3 Answers 3


That's a common misconception: A "Reh" is not a female "Hirsch".

"Hirsch" without further specification means the zoological family Cervidae (deer - or venison, when it's on your plate), which includes several dozen species. Among those are the "Elch" (moose), the "Ren" or "Rentier" (reindeer), the "Damhirsch" (fallow deer), the "Rothirsch" (red deer) and also the "Reh" (roe deer or roe).

Any of these have males and females, which in some cases have their own specific names. As for the "Reh", a male is called "Rehbock" (roe buck), a female is a "Ricke" (doe) [in some regions a "Geiß", though this mostly means a female goat], a youngling is a "Rehkitz" (fawn).

  • 1
    For a female Reh Rehgeiß is in my experience more common as just Geiß. For a Rehkitz an alternative is Rehling (Could be local usage. I'm not sure how standard Rehling is. I heard this mostly in Eiffel and Schwarzwald.)
    – Tonny
    Oct 31, 2016 at 13:12
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    As an anecdote, I have heard that this misconception was introduced by a bad translation of Disney`s Bambi movie into german language. de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bambi_%28Film%29#Einfluss
    – Axel
    Oct 31, 2016 at 13:21
  • 3
    You can also mention Hirschkuh for the female, and Kalb for the child.
    – simbabque
    Oct 31, 2016 at 13:44
  • Beware, an elk and a moose are different species, and especially for speakers of (North) American English, "moose" would describe what Germans understand when they hear "Elch". An "elk" would be a "Wapiti" in German. Nov 1, 2016 at 18:53
  • @Raketenolli Ah, you're right, thanks. I edited my answer. Technically, the "Eurasian elk" is a name for the "Elch", but "moose" is probably the most common. Nov 1, 2016 at 19:56

In the taxonomic system of biology there is a family named:

Hirsche (German name)
Deer (English name)
Cervidae (scientific name)

(Links go to Wikipedia-articles)

Animals belonging to this family live in Europe, Asia and America and in the northwest of Africa. This family contains more than 50 different species.

This family has two subfamilies, one of which is:

Trughirsche (Neuwelthirsche)
New world deer

This subfamily is divided into some genera, and one of those genera (Capreolus) has two species. One of those species is:

Roe deer (western roe deer)
Reh (Europäisches Reh)
Capreolus capreolus

This species is what we call a »Reh« in German. Animals belonging to this species live in Europe (and also in Turkey, more than 90% of which is in Asia). They can not be found in the wild in other parts of Asia, or other continents.

But as shown above, every »Reh« is a »Hirsch«. This is because »Hirsch« is not the name of a species, but the name of a family containing more than 50 different species, and only one of them is called »Reh« in German.

So there are many kinds of »Hirsche«. But when you talk about »Hirsch« in German, without any further information, then in most cases you mean:

Red deer
Cervus elaphus

This species lives in Europe, western and central Asia and in the North of Africa.

So neither »Reh« nor »(Rot-)Hirsch« can be found in America, and this leads to a very interesting story, that I want to tell (this part of my posting is no longer part of your question, but still quite interesting):

The Austrian author Felix Salten is not only thought to have written the most famous child porn novel in history of writing (Josefine Mutzenbacher). He also wrote one of the most famous children's books:

Bambi. Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde
Bambi, a Life in the Woods

This is a story of a little child-Reh (not a (Rot-)Hirsch!), growing up with his parents. Of course, both of them, i.e daddy and mommy, are Rehe (plural of »Reh«). Little Bambi learns quickly that men are hunting and killing Rehe, and some day his beloved mommy gets shot by men.

Bambi himself also get shot some years later, but he survives. The book ends with Bambi being an adult roebuck who now himself has two kids.

This story was published in Austria in 1923, and 1942 the American Walt Disney company made an animated cartoon movie out of this book, named


The story of the movie is very close to the story of the book, but there is no Reh in America, so the american artists drew Bambi and his mother as a

White-tailed deer

which is a deer-species living in America, but not in Europe. But it looks quite similar to a Reh.

Bambi’s father (“The Great King of the Forest”) was painted as a different deer-species that had a more masculine body than the feminine white-tailed deer (sorry, I don’t know which species Bambi’s father is in the movie).

The point is, that Bambi’s father looks very similar to an European red-deer. This was no problem in America, since Bambi, his mother and his father all were deer (well, still different species, but hey, it’s an American Disney movie).

But this did not work in the German version of this movie. When this movie was synchronized into German language, they turned Bambi and his mother back to Rehe, like in the original book by Felix Salten.

But when they talked about his father, then they said it was a Hirsch.

This movie was very often seen also in German spoken countries, and much more children and adult people did see Rehe and Hirsche in this movie than in real live. And so generations of people in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, who has seen this movie, grew up believing, that a »Hirsch« is the male form, and a »Reh« is the female form of the same species. And I bet still now, in 2016, lots of people believe this. But as explained above, this is wrong.

  • Almost the perfect answer except in the beginning you explain that every Reh is also a Hirsch and in the second part you write that Bambi is a Reh, not a Hirsch. Oct 31, 2016 at 16:09
  • @Sumyrda Nope. Hubert just emphasized the specy over the family. The story told about the Reh. Hirsch would be too general.
    – harper
    Oct 31, 2016 at 16:30
  • @harper I can guess what he meant to say and I've already upvoted the answer, but I felt the need to point out that this wording is confusing. Oct 31, 2016 at 16:51
  • "Skandal: Erst mit 33 Jahren erfahre ich, dass der Hirsch gar nicht der Mann vom Reh ist! Bildungssystem, Staat, Eltern - alle versagt! - Frollein/@dorfpunk, Twitter, 17. Mai 2011" aus: Passig & Jander: Weniger schlecht programmieren, O'Reilly, 2013. Oct 31, 2016 at 17:24
  • Btw., having seen lots of roe deer as well as substantial numbers of white tailed deer I don't think them that similar in reality, e.g. roe deer are much smaller (11 - 35 vs. 40 - 100 (-> 150) kg), don't have much tail to speak of and certainly don't wave it when fleeing... Oct 31, 2016 at 17:41

They are two different animals: Hirsch is the English "deer" (also called "hart"); Reh is the English "roe".

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