Tufted deer (Elaphodus cephalophus)

GenusElaphodus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 110 – 160 cm (2)
Tail length: 7 – 15 cm (2)
Shoulder height: 50 – 70 cm (2)
Weight17 – 50 kg (2)

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The tufted deer is a fairly dainty deer, named after the tuft of long, blackish-brown hair growing from the forehead (2) (3). The antlers of male tufted deer are diminutive spikes, rarely protruding beyond the distinctive tuft of hair (3). Its body is a deep chocolate brown in colour on the upperparts, white below, with the coat composed of coarse, almost spine-like hairs, which give the tufted deer a somewhat shaggy appearance (2). The head and neck are grey, with white markings highlighting the tips of the ears (2). The underside of the tail is also white and can be seen as the deer holds its tail up as it runs (3). Both male and female tufted deer have large, stout upper canines (3), with those of the male forming tusks up to 2.5 centimetres long (4).

The tufted deer occurs across southern and south-eastern China to eastern Tibet and into northern Myanmar (2) (5). E. c. cephalophus is the most westerly of the subspecies, ranging from north-eastern Myanmar into south-western China (5). E. c. ichangensis occurs in central-southern China and north-eastern Myanmar and E. c. michianus is restricted to coastal provinces of eastern China, while the distribution of E. c. fociensis is not clear (5).

An inhabitant of mountainous forest, the tufted deer can be found between elevations of 300 and 4,750 metres (5), and is said to be always found near water (2).

This rarely seen deer, which is most active at dusk and dawn (3), is usually solitary and only occasionally travels in pairs (2). Moving about its territory, which males aggressively defend from others (3), the tufted deer searches for grasses and other vegetation on which to feed, with the white underside of the tail flashing into view with every bounce as it walks (2). If disturbed, the tufted deer may bark in alarm and will take flight, moving with nimble, cat-like jumps (2) (3).

The mating season, or rut, takes place from September until December (5), when the loud barks of the tufted deer can be heard more frequently (2). After a gestation of 210 days, a single young is born between May and July. The tufted deer reaches sexual maturity around the age of nine months (5).

Very little is known about the status and threats of this elusive deer, other than it is hunted by local people (5), and a reported 100,000 individuals are killed each year (2). Thus, it is very likely that numbers of this species are declining significantly (1).

To remedy the lack of information on the tufted deer, further research has been recommended, including population censuses, surveys, ecological studies and investigations into human exploitation of this deer (1) (5). Such knowledge will help inform future conservation measures should they be needed.

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: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)