Tufted deer live in northeast Burma (Myanmar) and southern and central China. Their range extends from 24 to 35 degrees N latitude and from 98 to 122 degrees E longitude.
(Sheng and Lu, 1982; Whitehead, 1972)
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Tufted deer are similar in appearance to muntjac, although they are slightly larger. They weigh from 17 to 50 kg (37-110 lbs), and are 110 to 160 cm long (3.6-5.3 ft), with a shoulder height of 50 to 70 cm (1.6-2.3 ft). The tail is 7 to 16 cm (2.8-6.4 inches) long. The coat is coarse and dark gray or brown, with a dark gray head and neck. The underside is white, including the underside of the tail, and the lips and the tips of their ears are also white. Tufted deer gets their name from the tuft of hair on the forehead, which can sometimes hide the small antlers of the male. These antlers are simple and spiked, growing from short bony pedicles. Tufted deer have no upper incisors, but their upper canines are long and tusklike, similar to those of the muntjac. Male tufted deer are slightly larger than females. When a tufted deer fawn is born, its coloration is similar to that of an adult tufted deer, but with two parallel rows of spots on the back, on either side of the spine. These spots fade and disappear when the young deer reaches maturity.
(Grzimek, 1990; Nowak, 1999; Waller, 2001; Whitehead, 1972)
Range mass: 17 to 50 kg.
Range length: 110 to 160 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Habitat and Ecology
Tufted deer live in forested regions at high altitudes (between about 300 and 4600 meters above sea level), and in rain forests in high-altitude valleys. Their habitat is always near water.
Range elevation: 300 to 4600 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Tufted deer eat leaves, twigs, fruits, grasses and other types of vegetation. They are both browsers and grazers. These deer tear off vegetation to eat by pressing the lower incisors against a callous pad that takes the place of upper incisors.
(Sheng and Lu, 1982; Waller, 2001)
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; fruit
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore , Lignivore)
The tufted deer is a terrestrial herbivorous grazer and browser and a source of meat to carnivores such as the leopard and dhole.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Tufted deer bark when alarmed.
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Life History and Behavior
In captivity, tufted deer live to as long as 15 years, their longevity in the wild is not well documented.
Status: captivity: 15 (low) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
During the mating season, tufted deer males bark to attract mates. (Nowak, 1999)
Mating System: polygynous
Tufted deer mate in late fall and early winter, the young are born in the early summer after a gestation of 180 days. Tufted deer usually give birth to one or two fawns per year. (Sheng and Lu, 1982; Waller, 2001) Until the age of six months, a young deer is dependent on its mother. Tufted deer become sexually mature between eighteen months and two years of age. (Whitehead, 1972; Nowak, 1999)
Breeding season: Breeding occurs in late fall and early winter.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.
Average number of offspring: usually 1.
Average gestation period: 6 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 to 24 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 18 to 24 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous
Average gestation period: 180 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Young tufted deer are nursed and cared for by their mother until independence. They are capable of standing soon after birth.
Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Elaphodus cephalophus
There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species. See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Elaphodus cephalophus
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Data Deficient(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
- 1996Data Deficient
As of 1993, there were estimated to be 500,000 tufted deer living in China. They are not listed as an endangered species, although deforestation for agriculture and logging threaten their habitat. There are several tufted deer living in zoos, and they have been successfully bred in captivity. Annual kill by humans is estimated to be about 100,000.
(Nowak, 1999; Sheng and Lu, 1982)
US Migratory Bird Act: no special status
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no adverse affects of tufted deer, they are too rare to pose a threat to crops.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Tufted deer may be hunted for meat and fur throughout their range. They may also help to alert humans to the presence of predators through their barks (Grzimek, 1990).
Positive Impacts: food
The tufted deer, Elaphodus cephalophus, is a small species of deer characterized by a prominent tuft of black hair on its forehead and fang-like canines for the males. It is a close relative of the muntjac, living somewhat further north over a wide area of central China and northeastern Myanmar. Although suffering from overhunting and habitat loss, this deer is not considered to be endangered. It is the only member of the genus Elaphodus. It is restricted to forested mountain habitat up to 4500 m above sea level, making study difficult.
Four subspecies of the tufted deer are recognized, with one having doubtful taxonomic status:
- E. c. cephalophus – the largest subspecies, brownish coat, found in southwestern China and northeastern Myanmar.
- E. c. michianus – has a relatively narrow snout, found in southeastern China.
- E. c. ichangensis – has a relatively broad snout and a greyish coat, found in Central China.
- E. c. forciensus – doubtful subspecies, distribution unclear.
The tufted deer is similar to a muntjac in appearance, but the longer necks and legs give it a slightly leaner appearance. The coat is coarse with short and stiff hairs, being almost black in the winter and chocolate brown in the summer. The lips, tip of the ears, and the underside of the tails are white. A tuft of horseshoe shaped hair is present on the forehead, being brown to black, and can be up to 17 centimetres (6.7 in) long.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this deer are the fang-like canines in the males of the species. These can grow up to 2.6 cm (1.0 in) long, or longer in rare cases.
The tufted deer is a small deer, but still larger than most muntjac species. It stands at 50–70 centimetres (20–28 in) at the shoulder, and the weight varies greatly from 17 to 50 kilograms (37 to 110 lb). The tail is short at around 10 cm (3.9 in). The antler is only present in males and is extremely short, almost hidden by its long tuft of hair.
Habitat and distribution
The tufted deer is found mainly in China, where it occurs in the south from eastern coast to eastern Tibet. It is absent from the extreme south of the country. There are old records of this species in northeastern Myanmar, but recent surveys failed to find any, possibly due to the lack of surveys on the preferred habitat.
The tufted deer inhabits high, damp forests at 500–4,500 metres (1,600–14,800 ft) above sea level, close to the tree line. It is found in both evergreen and deciduous forests with extensive understory and nearby freshwater supply. The availability of salt licks is also a positive factor to the presence of this animal. This deer is able to withstand minor human disturbances, and is occasionally found in cultivated lands.
Behavior and reproduction
The tufted deer is mainly solitary or found in pairs. It is crepuscular and travels in fixed routes about its territory, which is vigorously defended by the males. This is a timid animal and prefer places with good cover, where it is well camouflaged. It is easily disturbed and when alarmed it will let out a bark before running away in a wild pattern, displaying its white rump with every jump and flops down after, making it difficult for the enemy to follow.
The mating season occurs between September and December, during which the loud barks males make could be easily heard. The gestation period lasts about 6 months and a litter of 1–2 is born in early summer. The young becomes sexually mature at the age of 1–2 years, and could live up to 10–12 years in the wild. The life span is much shorter in captivity, at about 7 years, because frequent visits by humans make this shy animal uncomfortable.
Threats and conservation
Surveys from 1998 put the estimated population around 300,000–500,000 individuals, though a substantial, ongoing decline is almost certain. Overharvesting of large animals in China is a serious threat not only to this species. The hide of this deer is a fairly high-end texile material, especially after the vigorous conservation efforts made on other more endangered species. Habitat loss is also an issue in this rapidly developing country. In China, this species is listed as provincially protected species in many places, but it is not protected by the national law. It occurs in a number of protected areas. More study needs to be done on this poorly known species for efficient protection.