Mastreani deer, Barking deer, Kakar, Bornean red muntjac, Red muntjac, Sundaland red muntjac
Indian muntjac deer, also known as the Mastreani deer, are small deer mainly found in Southern Asia. Indian muntjacs are amongst the oldest known deer species, with their fossils date back 15 to 35 million years ago. There are 12 known species in this group of deer, as well as several subspecies, and they have unique features like canine tusks and small antlers. It is not hard to distinguish between males and females, adults and young, of the genus Muntiacus. Males are larger and more muscular than females and have small straight antlers. Instead of antlers, females have bony knobs on their heads with patches of fur on top. In males the canines are longer and are clearly visible, whereas in females they are small and generally covered with their upper lip.
Indian muntjacs are found in southeastern and southern Asia, from Pakistan through India and Nepal, and across Southeast Asia into southern China. They live in rainforests, amongst dense vegetation, monsoon forests, and hilly country. They prefer being close to water.
Habits and lifestyle
Wild Indian muntjacs are active both during the day and during the night. However, animals in captivity show crepuscular behavior. These deer are solitary grazers, though occasionally they form small herds numbering 4-5 individuals. They will patrol their territory, searching for food and mates. A female is often seen with her fawn, and their territory will overlap with several territories of surrounding males. The males do not tend to be very aggressive, but they do like to maintain separate territories. Usually they tolerate other muntjacs, though fights can occur over a female. Males fight using their antlers and in doing so can cause each other serious injuries. The barking sound a Muntjac deer makes is an alarm call to warn nearby muntjacs of a potential threat. Their calls can be regularly heard at dawn and dusk, and can be a means of communication as well. Females and fawns squeal when communicating with each other.
herd, mob, gang
Diet and nutrition
Indian muntjacs are omnivorous and eat herbs, fruit, birds' eggs, sprouts, seeds, grasses and small animals.
Indian muntjacs are polygynous animals, males often fight between one another for possession of a harem of females. Muntjacs don’t adhere to any particular breeding season and can breed year round. Gestation lasts for a period of up to 230 days (about 7-8 months). A single fawn is born, and, occasionally, twins. Fawns are born in dense vegetation, where they remain hidden until they can move about with their mother. Females stop lactating once their fawn is 7-8 weeks of age. They are able to breed again several days after giving birth, so a doe can produce a new baby every 7 months. The young leaves its mother after about 6 months to establish its own territory. A female reaches sexual maturity at about 7 to 9 months old, and males at about 11 to 12 months old.
Indian muntjac deer are hunted for their meat and skin, as well as for sport. They are often hunted at the edges of agricultural areas because they are regarded as a pest due to damaging crops and tearing bark off trees. The increasing number of vehicles on the road is another major killer for muntjacs, as many of them are killed when they try to cross the road when looking for food.
The IUCN Red List do not provide the Indian muntjacs total population size, but state that recent camera-trap studies show this to be a common species. Indian muntjacs are classified as least concern (LC) but their numbers are decreasing.
Fun facts for kids
- Muntjacs are amongst the world’s smallest species of deer.
- The name “Muntjac” means “small deer” and originates from the Sudanese word “mencek”. They are also widely known as “barking deer”, due to their unique cry that sounds like a dog’s bark.
- Indian munjacs rely on their sense of smell to locate predators or females. They have a special sixth sense, using the vomeronasal organ, which is in the upper part of their mouth and is able to detect scents left by any other animals.
- A Muntjac deer’s antlers are shed each year between May and June. Their new ones are fully grown between August and September.
- People often misunderstand the Muntjacs’ bark. Their groaning sound leads to the formation of many paranormal stories amongst the locals.