Stag Antlers - Deer Species of the UK and around the world

Exotic Deer Species

 

Deer are found in an amazing variety of forms, and are distributed throughout the world in habitats as diverse as the Andean cloud forests, the grasslands of Pakistan, and the sub-Arctic regions of Canada.  They vary in size from the diminutive Pudu of South America to the majestic Alaskan Moose.

Some deer species are considered critically endangered in their natural environment, often as a result of over-hunting or the destruction of their habitat to create agricultural land.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it contains some interesting information about the rarer and lesser-known species, their relative sizes and appearance, and, of course, their antlers.

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Père David’s Deer or Milu

Père David’s Deer or Milu (Elaphurus davidianus)

Now living solely in zoos and deer parks, Père David’s Deer originated from the sub-tropical regions of China. First described in 1865 by Father Armand David (Père David), the natural population became extinct through hunting and were saved largely by the efforts of the Duke of Bedford who kept a herd at Woburn Abbey.

Adults weigh between 150 and 200 kg, and have a reddish summer coat with a dark dorsal stripe. The simple antlers of Père David’s Deer can reach 80 cm in length; they have a branched anterior segment, so that the tines extend backwards.  Stags may shed their antlers twice in one year.

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Père David’s Deer or Milu

Père David’s Deer or Milu (Elaphurus davidianus)

Now living solely in zoos and deer parks, Père David’s Deer originated from the sub-tropical regions of China. First described in 1865 by Father Armand David (Père David), the natural population became extinct through hunting and were saved largely by the efforts of the Duke of Bedford who kept a herd at Woburn Abbey.

Adults weigh between 150 and 200 kg, and have a reddish summer coat with a dark dorsal stripe. The simple antlers of Père David’s Deer can reach 80 cm in length; they have a branched anterior segment, so that the tines extend backwards.  Stags may shed their antlers twice in one year.

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Formosan Sika

Formosan Sika (Cervus nippon taiouanus)

This is native to Taiwan, and, like the Manchurian Sika, it is larger than the Japanese Sika. Some authorities consider it to be extinct in the wild; it is listed as endangered.

Stags may reach a weight of 79 kg, and stand 97 cm at the shoulder. The summer coat is bright chestnut, becoming darker in winter.  Formosan Sika antlers usually have four points to each side, and can reach a length of between 46 and 56 cm.

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Manchurian or Dybowski’s Sika

Manchurian or Dybowski’s Sika (Cervus nippon mantchuricus)

This is one of the many sub-species of Sika Deer. It is believed to be extinct in China and Korea, but it still lives wild in the remote Primorsky Krai region of Russia.

Manchurian Sika are larger than Japanese Sika, weighing up to 113 kg and standing about 109 cm at the shoulder.  The coat is yellowish-brown in winter, while in summer it is a reddish-fawn with small white spots. Antlers measuring 71-91 cm have been recorded, usually with four points or tines each side.

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Sambar Deer

Sambar (Rusa unicolor)

The Sambar deer is widespread over many Asian countries including India, southern China, Burma, Thailand, Taiwan and Borneo. One of the larger members of the deer family, it is a favourite prey of the Tiger.

Stags may reach 150 cm at the shoulder, weighing as much as 300 kg.  There is a variation in size across the Sambar’s wide distribution range. Antlers are typically 90 cm to 110 cm in length, with three tines – a forward-facing brow tine and the main beam, which ends in a fork.

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Barasingha or Swamp Deer

Barasingha or Swamp Deer (Rucervus duvaucelii)

Found in isolated parts of northern and central India and Nepal, in grassland and marshland. Hunting, poaching, and conversion of its habitat into agricultural land has led to a decrease in the Barasingha’s numbers. It is now considered vulnerable.

The Barasingha’s striking antlers can grow up to one metre in length, with between 10 and 14 tines in total; 20 tines have been recorded. Stags may stand 132 cm at the shoulder, weighing between 170 and 180 kg. The coat is an orange-brown colour, sometimes with faint spots in the summer.

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Indian or Red Muntjac

Indian or Red Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak)

Larger than the Muntjac found wild in Britain (which is Reeves’ Muntjac), the Indian Muntjac is one of five sub-species and is distributed from Pakistan to Java and mainland China. It’s also known as the Southern Red Muntjac, Barking Deer, Bornean Red Muntjak and Sundaland Red Muntjac.

Indian Muntjac were brought to Woburn in 1900, but they did not survive in the wild after about 1925. Antlers may reach 15 cm in length, with one branch.

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Eld’s Deer

Eld’s Deer (Panolia eldii)

Also known as Thamin or Brow-antlered Deer, Eld’s Deer is native to south-east Asia, and is endangered.  Its habitat of dry dipterocarp forests is diminishing because of the spread of agriculture.

Standing about 110 cm at the shoulder, and weighing between 125 and 175 kg, this is a regal-looking deer with impressive lyre-shaped antlers.  The average antler length is 99 cm.

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Siberian Roe Deer

Siberian Roe Deer (Capreolus pygargus)

This species of roe deer is found in north-east Asia including Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet and China. There are three sub-species.

Weighing up to 60 kg, with a reddish-brown summer coat, the Siberian Roe Deer has larger antlers than European Roe Deer, with more branches.  The antlers may reach a length of 40 cm.

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Rusa Deer

Rusa Deer (Rusa timorensis)

Closely related to the Sambar deer, the Rusa is also known as the Javan Rusa, Javan Deer or Timor Deer.  It is found in Java, Bali and Timor. In its native geographic range it is considered to be vulnerable.

Now introduced into Australia and New Zealand as well as some neighbouring countries, the Rusa is becoming a pest because of the damage it does to crops and gardens.  Weighing up to 152 kg, with a rough, greyish-brown coat, a Rusa stag can produce three-tined antlers of over 76 cm in length.

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Chital Deer

Chital (Axis axis)

The Chital is also known as the Spotted Deer or Axis Deer.  It lives in the wooded regions of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan and India.

The Chital’s coat is fawn coloured with white spots;  its lyre-shaped antlers may reach a length of 75 cm.  A Chital stag measures about 90 cm at the shoulder, weighing about 85 kg.

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Red Brocket Deer

Red Brocket Deer (Mazama americana)

There are seven species of brocket deer, of which the Red Brocket is the largest.  It lives in the dense forests of northern Argentina, Columbia, Guiana and Trinidad. Similar to the African Duiker, but unrelated, Red Brocket Deer are nocturnal in habit and rarely observed.

True to its name, this deer is reddish-brown in colour, measuring between 67 and 80 cm at the shoulder and weighing up to 48 kg.  The antlers consist of small spikes.

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Pudu Deer

Pudu 

The Northern Pudu (Pudu mephistophiles) and the Southern or Chilean Pudu (Pudu puda) are found in South America, and they are the world’s smallest deer.  Proficient climbers, their territory extends to high altitudes in the Southern and Northern Andes.  Both species are classed as vulnerable.

Pudu range in height from 32 to 44 cm, and can weigh up to 12 kg.   The antlers of the Northern Pudu can grow up to 6 cm, while those of the Southern Pudu can reach 9 cm.

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Huemul Deer

Huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) and Taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis)

These two endangered deer species are found at high altitudes in the Andes of South America. The Huemul,, also known as the South Andean Deer, is found in Chile and Argentina.  The Taruca inhabits the cloud forests of Peru and Bolivia.  Both are considered critically endangered.

Huemul bucks can weigh up to 90 kg, with a shoulder height of 90 cm.  Their coat is brown, with long curled hairs.  The Taruca stands between 70 and 80 cm at the shoulder, and can weigh between 45 and 65 kg.

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White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Also known as the Virginia Deer or the Whitetail, this medium-sized deer is native to all but five states of the US. It is also found in Canada, Mexico, Central and South America;  and it has been introduced to New Zealand and some European countries.  There are many sub-species.

The White-tailed Deer’s reddish-brown summer coat fades to a dull grey-brown in winter.  Bucks can weigh between 60 and 130 kg, and stand between 53 and 120 cm at the shoulder. Mature White-tailed Deer bucks can carry antlers with a total of ten points or tines;  the inside ‘spread’ may measure up to 60 cm.

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Mule Deer

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

The Mule Deer is indigenous to the Rocky Mountains of North America, but it has been introduced to Hawaii and Argentina.  The Black-tailed Deer is a sub-species. A Mule Deer’s coat is reddish-brown in summer, and turns bluish-grey in winter.

Stags can reach 100 cm at the shoulders and weigh up to 140 kg.  A Mule Deer’s antlers fork as they grow, rather than branching out from the main beam.  A mature Mule Deer stag’s antlers usually have four main points on each side.

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Reindeer or Caribou

Reindeer or Caribou (Rangifer tarandus)

Known as the Caribou in North America, the Reindeer occurs in the tundra and boreal forests of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Siberia, Norway and Finland.  There is currently a herd of 150 Reindeer roaming free in the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland.

For thousands of years, herds of Reindeer have been semi-domesticated, forming an important source of meat and hide for people living in the Arctic and Sub-arctic.

Male Reindeer, or bulls, can weigh up to 210 kg and stand between 85 and 150 cm at the shoulder.  There is a smaller sub-species that lives on Svalbard island.  The colour of the fur depends on the location of the population – more northerly herds tend to be paler, while southerly groups are darker.

Antler size varies according to the sub-species, but they can measure up to one metre in width and 135 cm in beam length.  Of all deer species, Reindeer have the largest antlers in relation to body size.

The Reindeer is the only deer species whose females grow antlers (other species may occasionally do so but this is usually the result of a hormonal imbalance). It is believed that antlers help the females to compete for food during winter, and to protect their calves.

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Moose or Eurasian Elk

Moose or Eurasian Elk (Alces alces)

This deer is known as the Moose in North America, and the Elk in Europe. It is distributed over almost all of Canada, Alaska, and many other northern American states. In Europe, it is found throughout Scandinavia, Poland and the Baltic states as well as Russia. At the end of the last Ice Age, it was also living in what is now Scotland.

Sub-species include the Eastern Moose, Western Moose, Siberian Moose, Alaska Moose, and Shiras Moose.  The Alaska Moose is the biggest deer in the world.

Coat colour can vary from light brown to very dark brown or dusty black, depending on the season and age of the animal.

An adult Moose may stand between 1.8 and 2.1 metres high at the shoulder and weigh as much as 700 kg. The span across its massive, palmated antlers may measure as much as 1.8 metres, but more usually between one and 1.5 metres.  The antlers may have as many as 30 points or tines, and weigh up to 20 kg.

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Elk or Wapiti

Elk or Wapiti (Cervus canadensis)

One of the world’s largest deer species, the Elk or Wapiti is found in North America (primarily Wyoming and the Yellowstone National Park), and also east Asia.  It is similar to the Red Deer, and was formerly believed to be a sub-species.

An Elk stag can stand 120 to 150 cm at the shoulder, and weigh between 147 and 499 kg.  Its antlers have points or tines similar to those of Red Deer, and can grow to a length of 120 cm. In summer, the coat is reddish-brown, turning darker in winter.

The Elk that is found in North America is not the same as the Eurasian Elk or Moose (Alces alces).

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Thorold’s or White-lipped Deer

Thorold’s or White-lipped Deer (Cervus albirostris)

Native to high altitude forests and open pastures of Tibet, this deer species is listed as vulnerable, and only about 7,000 of them remain in the wild. It has a deep brown summer coat, and stags may weigh between 180 and 230 kg. The spectacular antlers of Thorold’s Deer may reach a length of 1.3 metres (over 4 feet), with up to 7 points or tines on each.