Deep-Voiced Deer Lucky in Love

You think sex makes you groan? A fallow buck can groan once a second, even more after the act. Those with the deepest voices seem to have more luck with the ladies, too. (Image credit: Trenton Garner)

This new finding might do Barry White proud — deeper voices can help male deer get it on.

Scientists investigated male fallow deer (Dama dama), which regularly groan 60 mating calls per minute during breeding season to attract females — although they can groan up to 90 times per minute right after sex.

"They must be the most vocal deer species in the world," said researcher Alan McElligott, a behavioral ecologist now at the University of Nottingham in England.

After tracking a herd of the deer from dawn until dusk for a month in Ireland, sometimes in heavy rain, the researchers discovered the males with the deepest groans were typically luckiest at love. These bucks were not just the best lovers — they also were the best fighters in contests for dominance among the males (though they were not the always biggest in terms of body size).

Calls also can signal dominance among primates — including humans. For example, men with deep voices are typically seen as more masculine, and even have more kids.

"People tend to think of primates as special and better than anything else, and it's important when we can see other animals do similar things as we do," McElligott told LiveScience. "It's important to understand where speech came from in humans, and to do that we have to understand the evolutionary history of other animals as well, to see what we have in common and what's different."

The link between how dominant these bucks are and how deep their groans are might be hormones such as testosterone, suggested researcher Elisabetta Vannoni, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Vannoni and McElligott detailed their findings Sept. 3 in the journal PLoS ONE. The study was funded by grants from the University of Zurich and the Swiss Academy of Sciences.

Charles Q. Choi
Live Science Contributor
Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for Live Science and He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica.