The male of the species is sometimes referred to as a roebuck. The roe deer is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. The species is widespread in Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, from Scotland to the Caucasus, and east to northern Iran and Iraq. It is distinct from the somewhat larger Siberian roe deer. In Greece, only small populations of roe deer have been left at the mountainous regions of the mainland. The species is now characterized as 'vulnerable', meaning that if it continues being exterminated it will soon face extinction.

The roe deer is a relatively small deer, with a body length of 95–135 cm (3.1–4.4 ft), a shoulder height of 65–75 cm, and a weight of 15–35 kg. Bucks in good conditions develop antlers up to 20–25 cm long with two or three, rarely even four, points. When the male's antlers begin to regrow, they are covered in a thin layer of velvet-like fur which disappears later on after the hair's blood supply is lost. Males may speed up the process by rubbing their antlers on trees, so that their antlers are hard and stiff for the duels during the mating season. Unlike most cervids, roe deer begin regrowing antlers almost immediately after they are shed.