What are the white patches on a deer's neck called?

The white patches on a roe deer’s throat and neck are called gorget patches.


Not all deer develop these white areas on their coat; they tend to be regional in their appearance on the roe.


When they do develop on an individual deer though, they are most easily seen when they’re in their winter pelage, but they can show on their lighter coloured summer coat, too, but they’re much harder to see.


Non-biological history of gorget patches


Gorget was originally a piece of material wrapped around a woman’s neck, during the period of time immediately after the fall of the Roman Empire. After that, it was used to describe the pieces of armour placed around the throat of a soldier, to protect them from injury during battle. Subsequently, as their effectiveness as protective amour waned, they were used as a badge to distinguish rank in the army.


I’m not sure what the gorgets’ functionality is on a roe deer. Unless, of course, the white patches to help with their protective camouflage, by breaking up the outline of the neck in heavy cover.


About the photo above


Technical data: shutter time 1/320 s, aperture f/5.6, ISO 3200, focal length 500mm.


It was early morning on a chilly December’s morning and I’d been with this roebuck for just over an hour, as he browsed among the bushes that you can see in the background and nibbled on some bramble (further down to the right and out of camera shot). Although generally being on his own, he was with another doe on this occasion, who was laying down and resting where the field’s grass met the bush-line, about 5 metres to the left.


This buck is resident of the area, but he’s quite hard to observe for a couple of reasons.


Firstly, he ‘disappears’ for weeks at a time —possibly due to him temporarily vacating the range. However, more likely, he’s probably present all the time, but is just ‘hiding’ away in one of the many corners of the area where the foliage is dense and he will be very difficult to spot.


Another reason why it’s difficult to see him is because he’s a very nervous little fellow and is adept at just ‘melting’ away into the hedges when there’s the slightest hint of disturbance.


A few minutes before this image was taken, he was laying down in the long grass that you can see just behind him. But gunshots in the middle-distance sprung him to his feet, as local pheasant shoot commenced. After his initial alarm subsided, he just stood there, looking around, not knowing where to go. 


Eventually, he ambled off in the bushes to take cover.


(This male roe deer had no antlers when this photograph was taken, since he’d just recently shed his old pair and the new growth had only just started.)

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