Tufted deer are a small deer characterized by their distinctive tuft of black hair on their forehead. The males' antlers are small spikes, which rarely protrude beyond the tuft of hair. However, the deer’s most striking feature may be the male’s fang-like canines. The Tufted deer’s body has a deep chocolate brown coloration on the upperparts and is white below, and the coat consists of coarse hairs, almost like spines, which give it a somewhat shaggy appearance. The tail has a white underside which can be seen when the deer runs, holding its tail up.
Tufted deer live in the south and south-east of China across to eastern Tibet and also in northern Myanmar. They occur in high, damp forests near the tree line in both deciduous and evergreen forests that have extensive understory with nearby freshwater supply. These deer also seek the availability of salt licks in their environment.
Tufted deer are crepuscular, being more active at night and during the evening, and timid during the day. They form bonded pairs or live a solitary life, and travel using fixed routes within their territory. Males will defend their territories, fighting with other males, slashing at each other with their elongated canines. They prefer places that have good cover, so they can be well camouflaged. They are disturbed easily and when alarmed will make a barking sound before they run away in a wild sort of pattern, showing their white tail with every jump, and flopping down after their run, making it difficult for an enemy to follow. Barking occurs also in the breeding season, to locate and communicate with partners.
Tufted deer are polygynous, an adult male mating with many females during one mating season. The season lasts from September to December, when males bark to attract females. Gestation lasts about 6 months, with 1–2 young being born in early summer. Soon after birth, newborns are capable of standing. Their mother nurses and cares for them until they are independent, at 6 months old. Tufted deer are sexually mature between the ages of eighteen months and two years.
Hunting for meat and fur by local people is the main threat to Tufted deer, with thousands of individuals being killed each year. This species also suffers from logging and deforestation for agriculture, as it threatens their habitat.
According to the IUCN Red List, no documented estimates of population size or trend are available. There is an assumption that population in China was between 300,000 and 500,000 animals in 1998. Overall, the Tufted deer population is decreasing currently and they are classified as near threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List.