The Water chevrotain is a small ungulate native to the tropical regions of Africa. It is the largest of the 10 species of chevrotains, which are similar to deer but are barely larger than small dogs. Water chevrotains have a rich, sleek, red-brown coat on top, and the underside of the coat is white. On the body is a pattern of white stripes that runs horizontally from the shoulder to the tail, with vertical rows of white stripes in the back. The chin, throat, and chest are covered in very coarse hair with a pattern of white V shapes. The legs look short and thin compared to the bulky body, and the hooves are similar to a pig's. The tail is short with a fluffy white underside that resembles a cotton ball. Unusually for most mammals, female Water chevrotains are larger than males.
Water chevrotains primarily live in the coastal regions and can be found from Sierra Leone to western Uganda. They occur in closed-canopy, moist, tropical lowland forest, and within this habitat, they only occupy areas within close range to streams or rivers.
Water chevrotains are exclusively nocturnal and forage for food in exposed clearings and open river banks at night. To locate food these animals rely on their sharp sense of smell. During the day, Water chevrotains hide in the dense cover of the African brush. They lead a solitary life and interact with each other only during the mating season and antagonistic encounters. Males fight other males, mainly over territory. Their fights are typically short, and in them, the two competing males run at each other, mouths open. They poke each other with their muzzles and bite. These aggressive fights are thought to be the reason that mature males normally live no closer than several kilometers apart. Water chevrotains make several different noises, which include a scream when wounded and an alarm bark. When females fight, they make a high-pitched chattering noise, and when pursuing a female, a male makes a noise through a closed mouth.
Water chevrotains may breed throughout the year. After the gestation period of 7-9 months, the female gives birth to a single young which is born fully-developed (precocial) and is able to stand shortly after birth. The young remains hidden in cover for 3-6 months visited by the mother to nurse. Reproductive maturity is achieved at 17 months of age in females and between 5 and 27 months in males; at this time Water chevrotains become independent and disperse from their mother's home range.
According to recent evidence, the population of the Water chevrotain is declining in some areas due to habitat loss and heavy hunting for food.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Water chevrotain is 278,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.