Barasingha is a dear species with conspicuously large antlers. Overall, this mammal has as much as 12 antlers. In fact, the name of this species has Hindi origin and means '12-antlered deer'. Unfortunately, Barasingha is nowadays among the most vulnerable deer species not only in the Indian Peninsula, but also throughout the world. The remaining small population of this species inhabits protected sanctuaries of India.
Barasinghas presently occur in isolated populations across heavily fragmented range, which includes north and central India as well as south-western Nepal. There are 3 sub-species of Barasingha: Wetland Barasinghas, occurring in India and Nepal; Hard-ground Barasinghas, having only one population in Madhya Pardesh (India); and finally, Eastern Barasinghas, which form a single population in Assam, north-eastern India. Preferred habitat of this species is tall grassland as well as reed beds of large river floodplains. However, Barasinghas are often seen in wooded habitats such as dry deciduous forests and mangroves.
Barasinghas are highly social creatures, gathering into single-sex herds of 10 - 20 individuals. Additionally, all group members are usually the same age. However, they may occasionally be found in groups of mixed sex and age that are typically led by a single female, followed by other females of the herd, who form a line behind her, whereas males remain in the rear. Nevertheless, leading females are not dominant over members of the community. Barasinghas may be active at any time of the day, although they spend mornings and evenings grazing and prefer to rest during the afternoon. Males of this species are less loyal to their herds than females and frequently move between herds.
Barasinghas have a polygynous mating system, where the dominant male mates with a group of females known as a harem. Each male defends its mating rights, engaging in harsh competition and fights with other males. By the onset of the mating season, usual herds split. During this period, males begin creating wallows. They are often heard emitting bugling and barking sounds, resembling braying calls of mules. They breed between October and February, while most births occur in September-October. A single baby is born after 240 - 250 days of gestation, although females may occasionally produce twins. The fawn is weaned at 6 - 8 months old. Young females are able to produce offspring of their own at 2 years old.
Barasinghas have suffered from habitat destruction as a result of deforestation as well as draining of swamps and marshes for agricultural purposes. Currently, these animals attract hunters for their horns. On the other hand, they are threatened by diseases from, carried by the domestic cattle. The latter factor has already caused a considerable number of mortality among this species.
According to the IUCN Red List, the estimated total population of the Barasinghas lies between 3,500 and 5,100 animals. This includes 3,500-4,000 individuals of the Indian population of Wetland barasingha subspecies; 350-500 animals of the Eastern barasingha subspecies in Kaziranga National Park; and 300-350 animals of the Hard-ground barasingha in Kanha National Park. Overall, Barasinghas’ numbers are decreasing today, and the animals are currently classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.
These herbivorous mammals control plant communities of their range by grazing. They are also consumed by local predators such as tigers and leopards.