Chousingha (Tetracerus quadricornis)

Also known as: Four-horned antelope
  
French: Antilope A Quatre Cornes, Tétracère
Spanish: Antílope De Cuatro Cuernos
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCetartiodactyla
FamilyBovidae
GenusTetracerus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 100 cm (2)
Tail length: 13 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 60 cm (2)
Weight20 kg (2)

The chousingha is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix III of CITES (3).

A delicately built, shy antelope, the chousingha (Tetracerus quadricornis) is the only true four-horned mammal (2) (4). Both parts of the chousingha’s scientific name actually translate as “four-horned” in Greek and Latin respectively, although only the male has this distinctive feature. The conical back set of horns can be up to 11 centimetres long, while the front horns are usually shorter, and on some young individuals look like black knobs. The short, coarse coat is reddish-brown in colouring, turning lighter on the belly and white on the inner legs and backs of the ears (5). Dark stripes run down the front of each leg (5), and the tail is short and un-tufted (6). Although very swift when startled, the chousingha prefers to take cover and hide when threatened (7).

The chousingha occurs in India and Nepal. It is most abundant in the central states of India (8).

The chousingha is mainly found in dry deciduous forest habitats, especially in areas with a great variety of plants (2) (9).

A typically solitary animal, the chousingha is a normally found at low density of 0.2 to 3.6 individuals per square kilometre (8) (10), although it is sometimes seen in groups of up to four individuals (8). In captivity, mating takes place during the rainy summer months from July to September (5), and throughout this time males become aggressive and rut, using their unusual horns to fight for their right to mate (6). Female chousinghas typically give birth to between one and two individuals, each weighing around one kilogram, after a gestation period of between 7.5 and 8 months (5). In captivity, the chousingha has lived for up to ten years (8).

The chousingha is a browser that lives on a diet of shoots, leaves, bulbs, fruits and flowers (4). It is believed to be dependent on water and must drink regularly in order to survive (5). A secretive and wary antelope, the chousingha will often freeze rather than flee when a threat approaches. This threat may be a tiger (Panthera tigris), leopard (Panthera pardus) or dhole (Cuon alpinus), all of which have been known to prey on the chousingha (8).

The main threat to this Vulnerable species is habitat loss, due to the clearing of scrubland and forests for agriculture (1), and loss of tree diversity in its preferred habitat, the tropical dry deciduous forest. Despite its tiny size, the chousingha was once prized by trophy hunters for its unusual horns (6), and it is still hunted for meat in some areas (10). In addition to this, unmindful harvesting of non-timber forest produce, excessive grazing, and conservation efforts to improve the amount of prey available for tigers while ignoring the chousingha are threats faced by the species (10).

The chousingha occurs in many protected areas in India and is protected by law on Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act (1). However, laws that protect this species need to be enforced to ensure the survival of this unusual and distinctive mammal (4).

To learn about wildlife conservation in India see:

Authenticated (22/11/10) by Dr Koustubh Sharma, Regional Senior Ecologist, Snow Leopard Trust and Research Associate, Nature Conservation Foundation.

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Macdonald, D.W. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. CITES (March, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. Hildyard, A. (2001) Endangered Wildlife and Plants of the World. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, Tarrytown, New York.
  5. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  6. Lydekker, R. (1907) The Game Animals of India. Rowland Ward Ltd, London.
  7. Sharma, K., Rahmani, A.R. and Chundawat, R.S. (2009) Natural history observations of the four-horned antelope Tetracerus quadricornis. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 106(1): 72-82.
  8. Leslie, Jr., D.M. and Sharma, K. (2009) Tetracerus quadricornis. Mammalian Species, 843: 1-11.
  9. Sharma, K., Chundawat, R.S. and Rahmani, A.R. (2007) Resource selection by four-horned antelope in a tropical dry deciduous forest. Hystrix Italian Journal of Mammalogy, Supplement 568.
  10. Sharma, K. (2010) Pers. comm.