Barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii)

Also known as: swamp deer
Synonyms: Cervus duvaucelii
French: Barasinga, Cerf De Duvaucel
Spanish: Ciervo De Duvaucel
GenusRucervus (1)
SizeBody length: 180 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 119 - 124 cm (2)
Weight170 - 289 kg (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU C1) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3). Subspecies: Wetland barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii duvaucelii) classified as Vulnerable (VU C1); upland barasingha (R. d. branderi) classified as Endangered (EN D); R. d. ranjitsinhi classified as Critically Endangered (CR C2b) (1).

These medium-sized deer have particularly large antlers on the males which may grow up to one metre in length. They have a concentration of six to eight points near to the tips (2). Barasingha have a predominantly brown coat with yellowish undersides; males (stags) develop a reddish tinge in summer and juveniles (fawns) are mottled with white (5).

Previously found throughout the drainage basins of the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers, the barasingha is today restricted to southern Nepal and northern India. Three subspecies are recognised: the wetland barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii duvaucelii) in India and Nepal, the upland barasingha (R. d. branderi) restricted to a single population in Madhya Pardesh, India; and R. d. ranjitsinhi found in only a single population in Assam, northeast India (4).

Primarily found in the tall grasslands and reed beds of large river floodplains, the barasingha is also associated with wooded areas, from dry deciduous forest to mangroves (4).

During the breeding season which runs from September to April, barasingha are found in large mixed herds within which the males fiercely compete for harems of around 30 females; a loud ‘roaring’ call is often heard during this time, as well as a ‘hee-haw’ roar; (2). Females come into oestrus once a year (2) - they give birth to their usually single young between August and September (4). Fawns become independent at around 6-8 months of age and the life span of the barasingha is thought not to exceed 20 years (2).

These deer graze mainly on grasses although the wetland barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii duvaucelii) feeds commonly on aquatic plants (4), which it may obtain by completely submerging its head in the water (5).

The global population of the barasingha has undergone a dramatic decline principally as a result of habitat loss. The fertile floodplains in much of their range have been rapidly developed and drained for agriculture and industrial development. These deer are also seen as a threat to crops and may be persecuted as a result (4).

The barasingha persists in a number of National Parks, including Dudhwa in northern India, Mana Kaziranga in northeastern India and Kanha and Idnravati in central India (5). The species is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans international trade in this species (3). It is also protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 (6).

Authenticated (04/04/05) by Peter Grubb, Natural History Museum, London.

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2003)
  2. Ultimate Ungulate (January, 2003)
  3. CITES (January, 2003)
  4. Wildlife of India (January, 2003)
  5. Animal Info (January, 2003)
  6. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.