The Axis deer is a beautiful mammal with spotted body and short tail. Both males and females have markings on their bodies; the markings are white, running in rows along the length of their bodies. The body of Axis deer is bright golden brown in color while the head is a bit lighter shade of the same color. Around their eyes, they have stripes of fur that are paler in color. Males have black spots on their face and three tines on each of their magnificent antlers. These deer have dark stripe, running along the length of their back and bordered by a row of spots. The outer parts of their legs are light brown in color while the underparts can be both white and creamy. The Axis deer has white spot on its throat, which is more noticeable in males. In addition, the tail of the Axis deer has white under part.
Most of the Axis deer’s population is concentrated in the forests of India. The major area of their distribution is Sri Lanka and India, though they are introduced to USA and Australia as well.They tend to live in shady areas with heavy and dense forests. The Axis deer also prefer open grasslands and semi-evergreen forests.
The Axis deer are highly sociable animals. Their herds can contain 6-30 individuals, two or three of them being stags. Adult females with their fawns from present and previous year usually form matriarchal herds. On the other hand, males live in hierarchical system with larger and older males dominating smaller and younger ones. The Axis deer are always on the alert, in anticipation of a sudden appearance of a predator. The period of these animals’ highest activity is morning and late afternoon. At the heat of the day the Axis deer usually rest under the shadow. When the weather is hot, they tend to remain near water, drinking in mornings and evenings.
The Axis deer are herbivores (folivores). Their diet usually consists of grasses, flowers and fruits, fallen from the trees. When the monsoon season comes, grasses and sedges in sal forests become the main source of food for these animals. They also prefer mushrooms which are rich in proteins and nutrients. In addition, the Axis deer can browse when needed.
They are polygynous: a male can mate with more than one female. When mating season comes, males start bellowing, indicating the beginning of breeding. Breeding takes place in April or May while gestation period lasts 210-225 days. These animals produce young every year with females giving birth to 1 or 2 fawns at once. During the first 2 weeks after birth, the young live in hiding spots, where they are visited by their mother. The mother nurses its babies until they are 6 months old. Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 12-14 months.
One of major threats to the Axis deer population is natural predators such as leopards and wild dogs. On the other hand, deforestation and subsequent loss of habitat lead to decline of the population.
According to IUCN, the Axis deer is widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, in the IUCN Red List the Axis deer is classified as Least Concern (LC).
These animals are important consumers in the ecosystem of their habitat. Moreover, due to being herbivores, they can even be considered as primary consumers. On the other hand, they themselves become food for predators of the area. Since the Axis deer feed upon plants, in some forests green plants are held in check by these animals. Without the deer in the ecosystem, some plants might over populate while population of certain animal species, which mainly feed on the deer, would decrease without key source of food.