Taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis)

Also known as: North Andean deer, North Andean huemul, Peruvian guemal, Peruvian huemul
French: Cerf Des Andes Septentrionales, Guémal Péruvien, Huémul Des Andes Septentrionales
Spanish: Ciervo Andino Septentrional, Guemal, Tarugo, Taruka
GenusHippocamelus (1)
SizeMale shoulder height: c. 75 cm (2)
Female shoulder height: c. 70 cm (2)
Weight45 - 65 kg (3)

The taruca is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).

The taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis) is a medium-sized deer (5) with a stocky body and a sandy grey coat, which provides excellent camouflage in its arid habitat (2).

The taruca’s defining features include a dark ‘Y’-shaped marking on its face, extending over both of the eyes, and a white crescent around its black nose. Its ears are large and tipped with black, and the throat and neck are pale whitish (2). The taruca has a brown tail with a fluffy, white underside (3).

The female taruca is smaller than the male, and typically has a browner coat, as do juveniles. Only males have antlers, which are a simple double fork shape between 20 and 30 centimetres in length (2).

The taruca is found in the Andes Mountains of Peru, western Bolivia, north-eastern Chile, and north-western Argentina (6), hence this species’ alternative common name of ‘North Andean deer’. However, suitable habitat for the taruca in this large range is highly fragmented and there is very little contact between the small isolated populations, which are often separated by human settlements (1).

In the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, the taruca can be found at altitudes of between 3,500 and 5,000 metres (1). Well suited to living at high altitudes, the taruca favours semi-arid rocky terrain such as sub-alpine meadows or tundra above the treeline (6). However, this species is found slightly lower in Argentina, at around 2,500 to 3,000 metres above sea level. At these lower altitudes, the taruca has been observed in wet forest fringes (6).

A social species, the taruca is normally found in groups averaging six or seven members, including males, females and juveniles (2) (6). It has been observed that an adult female often leads the group, while the males will bring up the rear (2).

Local people report that the taruca is diurnal, often following a daily activity pattern which involves descending into the valleys to reach water sources (2). The taruca also makes seasonal movements to lower altitudes to seek protection from the elements, spending summer on the highest slopes and winter in lower, more sheltered valleys (3). The taruca feeds on grasses, herbs and occasionally shrubs (6).

Rutting occurs in June, and the taruca typically gives birth to a single young between February and April (3) (6).

Threats to the taruca include a reduction in habitat quality and continued habitat fragmentation (7), as well as competition with livestock (1). The taruca is targeted by trophy hunters, and as it is occasionally seen grazing in alfalfa fields, it is sometimes shot by farmers protecting their crops, or predated by domestic dogs (1) (6).

The taruca is also sometimes hunted for traditional Bolivian medicine, as it is believed that the horns can be used to cure facial paralysis. In some rural villages people will eat dried taruca meat (1).

There are currently very few specific measures in place to conserve the taruca, although it does occur in a number of protected reserves and national parks (1) (6). It is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that trade in this species should be tightly controlled (4).

Proposed conservation measures for this species include further research and survey work to provide a greater understanding of the taruca’s population and distribution, as well as improving the management of the protected areas in which it is found and preventing livestock from entering these areas (6).

Find out more about the taruca:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2012)
  2. Roe, N.A. and Rees, W.E. (1976) Preliminary observations of taruca (Hippocamelus antisenis) in southern Peru. Journal of Mammalogy57(4): 722-730.
  3. Ultimate Ungulate - Taruca (January, 2012)
  4. CITES (January, 2012)
  5. Barrio, J. (2007) Population viability analysis of the taruka, Hippocamelus antisensis (D’Órbigny, 1834) (Cervidae) in southern Peru. Revista Peruana de Biología, 14(2): 193-200.
  6. Wemmer, C. (1998) Deer: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Deer Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  7. Weber, M. and Gonzalez, S. (2002) Latin American deer diversity and conservation: A review of status and distribution. Écoscience, 10(4): 443-454.