The Indian muntjac (''Muntiacus muntjak''), also called the southern red muntjac and barking deer, is a
deer Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the red deer, the fallow deer, and the chital; and the Capreolinae, including the ...
species native to
South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic ''*sunþaz'' ("south" ...

Southeast Asia Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is the southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions that are geographically south of China, east of the Indian subcontinent and north-west of Australia. Southeast Asia is bordered to the north b ...

Southeast Asia
. It is listed as
Least Concern A least-concern species is a species that has been categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as evaluated as not being a focus of species conservation. They do not qualify as threatened, near threatened, or (before 2 ...
on the
IUCN Red List The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (also known as the IUCN Red List or Red Data Book), founded in 1964, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biologi ...
. This muntjac has soft, short, brownish or greyish hair, sometimes with creamy markings. It is among the smallest deer species. It is an
omnivore An omnivore () is an animal that has the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter. Obtaining energy and nutrients from plant and animal matter, omnivores digest carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber, and metabolize the nutrien ...
and eats grass, fruit,
shoot In botany, shoots consist of stems including their appendages, the leaves and lateral buds, flowering stems and flower buds. The new growth from seed germination that grows upward is a shoot where leaves will develop. In the spring, perennial pl ...
s, seeds, bird eggs, and small animals, and occasionally scavenges on
carrion Carrion (from Latin ''caro'', meaning "meat") is the decaying flesh of dead animals, including human flesh. Overview Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems. Examples of carrion-eaters (or scave ...
. Its calls sound like barking, often when frightened by a Predation, predator, hence the common name "barking deer". Males have Canine tooth, canines, short antlers that usually branch just once near the base, and a large postorbital scent gland used to mark territories.


The species was formerly classified as '.


The Indian muntjac has a short but very soft, thick, dense coat that is more dense in cooler regions. Its face is darker and the limbs are dark to reddish brown and the coat color seasonally varies from darker brown to yellowish and grayish brown and is white ventrally. Its ears have much less hair, but otherwise are the same color as the rest of the head. Male muntjacs have short antlers, about long, that protrude from long body hair-covered pedicels above the eyes. Females have tufts of fur and small bony knobs instead of antlers. Males also have elongated (, slightly curved upper canines, which can be used in male-male conflicts and inflict serious injury. The body length of muntjacs varies from , and height ranges from . The muntjacs, unique among the deer, have large, obvious facial (preorbital, in front of the eyes) scent glands used to mark territories or females. Males have larger glands than females.

Distribution and habitat

The Indian muntjac is among the most widespread, but least known of all mammals in South Asia. It is found in Bangladesh, southern China, northeastern India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Malay Peninsula, the Riau Archipelago, Sumatra, Bangka Island, Belitung, Java, Bali, and Borneo. It is found in Tropics, tropical and Subtropics, subtropical deciduous forests, grasslands, savannas, and Shrubland, scrub forests, as well as in the hilly country on the slopes of the Himalayas, at altitudes ranging from sea level up to . They never wander far from water. ''M. muntjac'' is a terrestrial mammal. A close survey of its microhabitat on Hainan Island was conducted from 2001 to 2002 by tracking with radio collar the localities of three females and two males. Results showed a favoritism towards shrub grassland, thorny shrub land, and dry savanna over woods, cultivated grass plots, and deciduous monsoon forests. Food availability was higher at foraging sites than at bed sites, but bed sites had taller and denser vegetation. No significant difference in wet vs dry was found in food abundance, so habitat selection seemed to be based upon maximum tree height and canopy diameters. ''Ornithodoros indica'' has been recorded to be a parasite of the Indian muntjac, but it does not likely influence the distribution of this deer.

Distribution of subspecies

There are 15 subspecies: *''M. m. annamensis'', Indochina *''M. m. aureus'', peninsular India *''M. m. bancanus'', Belitung and Bangka Islands *''M. m. curvostylis'', Thailand *''M. m. grandicornis'', Burmese muntjac, Burma *''M. m. malabaricus'', South India and Sri Lanka *''M. m. montanus'', Sumatran or mountain muntjac, Sumatra *''M. m. muntjak'', Javan muntjac, Java and south Sumatra *''M. m. nainggolani'', Bali and Lombok Islands *''M. m. nigripes'', black-footed or black-legged muntjac, Vietnam and Hainan Island *''M. m. peninsulae'', Malaysia *''M. m. pleicharicus'', South Borneo *''M. m. robinsoni'', Bintan Island and Lingga Islands *''M. m. rubidus'', north Borneo *''M. m. vaginalis'', Burma to southwest China

Ecology and behavior

The Indian muntjac is also called "barking deer" due to the bark-like sound that it makes as an alarm when danger is present. It is also called ''Kakar''. Other than during the Rut (mammalian reproduction), rut (mating season) and for the first six months after giving birth, the adult Indian muntjac is a solitary animal. Adult males in particular are well spaced and marking grass and bushes with secretions from their preorbital glands appears to be involved in the acquisition and maintenance of territory. Males acquire territories that they scent marking, mark with scent markers by rubbing their preorbital glands (located on their face, just below the eyes) on the ground and on trees, scraping their hooves against the ground, and scraping the bark of trees with their lower incisors. These scent markers allow other muntjacs to know whether a territory is occupied or not. Males often fight with each other over these territories, sufficient vegetation, and for primary preference over females when mating using their short antlers and an even more dangerous weapon, their canines. If a male is not strong enough to acquire his own territory, it will most likely become prey to a leopard or some other predator. During the time of the rut, territorial lines are temporarily disregarded and overlap, while males roam constantly in search of a receptive female. These deer are highly alert creatures. When put into a stressful situation or if a predator is sensed, muntjacs begin making a bark-like sound. Barking was originally thought of as a means of communication between the deer during mating season, as well as an alert. However, in more recent studies, it has been identified as a mechanism used solely in alarming situations meant to cause a predator to realize that it has been detected and move elsewhere or to reveal itself. The barking mechanism is used more frequently when visibility is reduced and can last for over an hour regarding one incident. Muntjacs exhibit both diurnality and nocturnality.


The Indian muntjacs are classified as omnivores. They are considered both browsers and grazers with a diet consisting of grasses, ivy, prickly bushes, low-growing leaves, bark, twigs, herbs, fruit, sprouts, seeds, tender shoots, bird eggs, and small, warm-blooded animals. Indian muntjacs are typically found feeding at the edge of the forest or in abandoned clearings. The muntjacs found in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Nilgiri-Wayanad district, Wayand area of south India are always sited in the large tea estates, as they feed mostly on tea seeds. Their large canine teeth help in the processes of retrieving and ingesting food.


The Indian muntjacs are Polygamy, polygamous animals. Females sexually mature during their first to second year of life. These females are Estrous cycle#Frequency, polyestrous, with each cycle lasting about 14 to 21 days and an estrus lasting for 2 days. The gestation period is 6–7 months and they usually bear one offspring at a time, but sometimes produce twins. Females usually give birth in dense growth so that they are hidden from the rest of the herd and predators. The young leaves its mother after about 6 months to establish its own territory. Males often fight between one another for possession of a harem of females. Indian muntjacs are distinguished from other even-toed ungulates in showing no evidence of a specific breeding season within the species. Adults exhibit relatively large home range overlap both intersexually and intrasexually, meaning that strict territorialism did not occur but some form of site-specific dominance exists.

Evolution and genetics

Paleontology, Paleontological evidence proves that Indian muntjacs have been around since the late Pleistocene Epoch (geology), epoch at least 12,000 years ago. Scientists are interested in studying muntjacs because between species, they have a wide variation in number of chromosomes; in fact, the Indian muntjac has the lowest number of chromosomes of any mammal, with males having a diploid number of 7 and females having 6 chromosomes. They are the oldest known members of the deer family, and the earliest known deer-like creatures had horns instead of antlers, but the muntjac is the earliest known species to actually have antlers. Ancestor to muntjacs is the ''Dicrocerus elegans'', which is the oldest known deer to shed antlers. Other fossils found that deer species experienced a split of the Cervinae from the Muntiacinae, the latter of which remained of similar morphology. Muntjacs of this time during the Miocene were smaller than their modern counterparts. Molecular data have suggested that Indian and Fea's muntjacs share a common ancestor, while giant muntjacs are more closely related to Reeve's muntjac. Although the muntjac deer has a long lineage, little has been studied in terms of their fossil record. The female Indian muntjac deer is the mammal with the lowest recorded Ploidy#Diploid, diploid number of chromosomes, where 2n = 6. The male has a diploid number of 7 chromosomes. The similar Reeves's muntjac (''M. reevesi''), in comparison, has a diploid number of 46 chromosomes.


They have played a major role in Southern Asia, being hunted for sport and for their meat and skin. Often, these animals are hunted around the outskirts of agricultural areas, as they are considered a nuisance for damaging crops and ripping bark from trees.


Further reading

* * * {{DEFAULTSORT:muntjac, Indian Muntjac, Indian Muntjac Mammals of India Mammals of Bangladesh Mammals of South Asia Mammals of Southeast Asia Mammals described in 1780, Indian muntjac Taxa named by Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann