The red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, Iran, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being the only species of deer to inhabit Africa. Red deer have been introduced to other areas, including Greece, Bulgaria even Australia, New Zealand, United States and Argentina. In many parts of the world, the meat (venison) from red deer is used as a food source. the Red Deer of Greece was in mythology protected by the goddess of the hunt and wild fauna, Artemis. It is the largest herbivore dwelling in Greece, and one of the largest of the deer species.
Red deer in Europe generally spend their winters at lower altitudes in more wooded terrain. During the summer, they migrate to higher elevations where food supplies are greater and better for the calving season.
Red deer are ruminants, characterized by a four-chambered stomach. Genetic evidence indicates the red deer as traditionally defined is a species group, rather than a single species, although it remains disputed as to exactly how many species the group includes.The closely related and slightly larger American elk or wapiti, native to North America and eastern parts of Asia, had been regarded as a subspecies of red deer, but recently it has been established as a distinct species. It is probable that the ancestor of all red deer, including wapiti, originated in central Asia and resembled sika deer.
Although at one time red deer were rare in parts of Europe, they were never close to extinction. Reintroduction and conservation efforts, such as in the United Kingdom and Portugal, have resulted in an increase of red deer populations, while other areas, such as North Africa, have continued to show a population decline.