In brief. . .
Where do they come from? The Sika (Cervus nippon) is native to East Asia and has been introduced to other countries, including the UK.
Antler size: From its fourth year onwards, a Sika Deer stag will produce branched antlers of between six and eight points, each measuring up to 41 – 46 cm (16” to 18”) in length.
What else should I know? Also known as the Japanese Deer or Spotted Deer. Sika sub-species include Chinese, Japanese, Formosan and Manchurian. Only the Japanese sub-species (Cervus nippon nippon) is present in the wild in the UK.
Background information . . .
The Sika Deer (Cervus nippon), also known as the Japanese Deer or Spotted Deer, is a relatively late introduction to Britain. There are 14 sub-species, but only one, the Japanese Sika (Cervus nippon nippon) is wild in the UK.
It is thought that the first pair of Sika Deer were brought to the London Zoological Society in 1860, and were displayed in Regent’s Park. Afterwards, other zoos and parks imported Sika Deer and these soon spread into the wild, either by accident or design. In the early 1900s Sika were introduced into the New Forest and soon became prolific.
Sika are now present throughout most of Britain and parts of Ireland, but they are still most common in southern England. In Scotland, they are expanding in population from west to east. Sika are absent from Wales.
Preferring the habitat of acid soils with pine forests and heather, Sika feed on grasses and the leaves of broadleaved trees, as well as fruits, fungi and acorns.
A Sika stag can weigh between 40 kg and 70 kg, and measure up to 95 cm at the shoulder. Their lifespan can be as long as 18 years. The adult coat in summer is chestnut brown with some white spots, becoming light grey with fainter spotting in winter.
Sika tend to be solitary for much of the year, forming small groups in winter.
How Sika Deer antlers grow . . .
Sika calves develop pedicles from the age of six months, growing a single spike in their second year. This spike varies between 6 cm and 25 cm in length, according to the animal’s state of health. The antler may have one or two top forks. The bey tine is absent.
In its third year, a Sika Deer stag generally produces branched antlers with six tines or points, and from its fourth year it will carry antlers with a total of eight points.
Antlers are cast at the end of March. The new, growing antlers are covered with ‘velvet’, a soft, blood-filled, bone-forming tissue which is very sensitive. The antlers are usually fully developed in August, when testosterone levels cause the blood supply to the new antlers to be cut off. The velvet then dries out and the stags rub their antlers against trees and saplings to remove the shredded covering.
Choosing Sika Deer antlers . . .
Size: Sika antlers are similar to Red Deer antlers, but on a smaller scale. They can grow up to 46 cm (18”) in length, with up to eight points or tines.
Colour: Sika antlers are generally very dark brown, with polished white tips to the tines.
Source: You may wish to know how the antlers were obtained. Shed antlers (or cast antlers) have been shed naturally by the deer during the winter. If you are looking for antlers with a skull but you would prefer the deer to have died naturally, make sure that you look for the word ‘fatality’ or ‘winter fatality’ in the description. You can find out more about the different sources of antlers and skull cuts here.