Indian muntjac

The Indian muntjac or the common muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), also called the southern red muntjac and barking deer, is a deer species native to South and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.[1] In popular local language, it is known as Kaakad or Kakad (काकड़)[2][3][4]

Indian muntjac
Red muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak malabaricus) male.jpg
M. m. malabaricus in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Muntiacus
M. muntjak
Binomial name
Muntiacus muntjak
(Zimmermann, 1780)
Muntjac distribution map.gif
Indian muntjac range

This muntjac has soft, short, brownish or grayish hair, sometimes with creamy markings. It is among the smallest deer species. It is an omnivore and eats grass, fruit, shoots, seeds, bird eggs, and small animals, and occasionally scavenges on carrion. Its calls sound like barking, often when frightened by a predator, hence the common name "barking deer". Males have canines, short antlers that usually branch just once near the base, and a large postorbital scent gland used to mark territories.[5]


The species was formerly classified as Cervus muntjac.[6]



The Indian muntjac has a short but very soft, thick, dense coat that is more dense in cooler regions. Its face is darker and the limbs are dark to reddish brown and the coat color seasonally varies from darker brown to yellowish and grayish brown and is white ventrally. Its ears have much less hair, but otherwise are the same color as the rest of the head. Male muntjacs have short antlers, about 10 cm (3.9 in) long, that protrude from long body hair-covered pedicels above the eyes. Females have tufts of fur and small bony knobs instead of antlers. Males also have elongated (2–4 cm (0.79–1.57 in)), slightly curved upper canines, which can be used in male-male conflicts and inflict serious injury. The body length of muntjacs varies from 89–135 cm (35–53 in), with a 13 to 23 cm (5.1 to 9.1 in) long tail, and shoulder height ranging from 40 to 65 cm (16 to 26 in). Adult weight ranges between 13 to 35 kg (29 to 77 lb),[7][8] with males being larger than females. Muntjacs are unique among the deer, having large, obvious facial (preorbital, in front of the eyes) scent glands used to mark territories or to attract females. Males have larger glands than females.[9]

Distribution and habitatEdit

The Indian muntjac is among the most widespread, but least known of all mammals in South Asia. It is found in Bhutan, Bangladesh, southern China, northeastern India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Malay Peninsula, the Riau Archipelago, Sumatra, Bangka Island, Belitung, Java, Bali, and Borneo.[10] It is found in tropical and subtropical deciduous forests, grasslands, savannas, and scrub forests, as well as in the hilly country on the slopes of the Himalayas, at altitudes ranging from sea level up to 3,000 m (9,800 ft). They never wander far from water.[citation needed]

M. muntjac is a terrestrial mammal. A close survey of its microhabitat on Hainan Island was conducted from 2001 to 2002 by tracking with radio collar the localities of three females and two males. Results showed a favoritism towards shrub grassland, thorny shrub land, and dry savanna over woods, cultivated grass plots, and deciduous monsoon forests. Food availability was higher at foraging sites than at bed sites, but bed sites had taller and denser vegetation. No significant difference in wet vs dry was found in food abundance, so habitat selection seemed to be based upon maximum tree height and canopy diameters.[11]

Ornithodoros indica has been recorded to be a parasite of the Indian muntjac, but it does not likely influence the distribution of this deer.[12]

Distribution of subspeciesEdit

M. m. aureus in India
M. m. curvostylis in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
M. m. vaginalis in Khao Yai National Park

There are 15 subspecies:[10]

Ecology and behaviorEdit

Alarm calls

The Indian muntjac is also called "barking deer" due to the bark-like sound that it makes as an alarm when danger is present. It is also called Kakar. Other than during the rut (mating season) and for the first six months after giving birth, the adult Indian muntjac is a solitary animal. Adult males in particular are well spaced and marking grass and bushes with secretions from their preorbital glands appears to be involved in the acquisition and maintenance of territory.[13] Males acquire territories that they mark with scent markers by rubbing their preorbital glands (located on their face, just below the eyes) on the ground and on trees, scraping their hooves against the ground, and scraping the bark of trees with their lower incisors. These scent markers allow other muntjacs to know whether a territory is occupied or not. Males often fight with each other over these territories, sufficient vegetation, and for primary preference over females when mating using their short antlers and an even more dangerous weapon, their canines. If a male is not strong enough to acquire his own territory, it will most likely to fall victim to a predator. During the time of the rut, territorial lines are temporarily disregarded and overlap, while males roam constantly in search of a receptive female.

Predators of these deer include tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, pythons, crocodiles, dholes, wolves, Indian pariah dogs, bears, fishing cats, jungle cats, Asian golden cats, golden jackals and striped hyenas.[8] Foxes, raptors and wild boars prey on fawns. They are highly alert creatures. When put into a stressful situation or if a predator is sensed, muntjacs begin making a bark-like sound. Barking was originally thought of as a means of communication between the deer during mating season, as well as an alert. However, in more recent studies, it has been identified as a mechanism used solely in alarming situations meant to cause a predator to realize that it has been detected and move elsewhere or to reveal itself. The barking mechanism is used more frequently when visibility is reduced and can last for over an hour regarding one incident. Muntjacs exhibit both diurnality and nocturnality.[citation needed]


The Indian muntjacs are classified as omnivores. They are considered both browsers and grazers with a diet consisting of grasses, ivy, prickly bushes, low-growing leaves, bark, twigs, herbs, fruit, sprouts, seeds, tender shoots, bird eggs, and small, warm-blooded animals. Indian muntjacs are typically found feeding at the edge of the forest or in abandoned clearings. The muntjacs found in the Nilgiri-Wayanad area of south India are always sited in the large tea estates, as they feed mostly on tea seeds. Their large canine teeth help in the processes of retrieving and ingesting food.


The Indian muntjacs are polygamous animals. Females sexually mature during their first to second year of life. These females are polyestrous, with each cycle lasting about 14 to 21 days and an estrus lasting for 2 days. The gestation period is 6–7 months and they usually bear one offspring at a time, but sometimes produce twins. Females usually give birth in dense growth so that they are hidden from the rest of the herd and predators. The young leaves its mother after about 6 months to establish its own territory. Males often fight between one another for possession of a harem of females. Indian muntjacs are distinguished from other even-toed ungulates in showing no evidence of a specific breeding season within the species. Adults exhibit relatively large home range overlap both intersexually and intrasexually, meaning that strict territorialism did not occur but some form of site-specific dominance exists.[14]

Evolution and geneticsEdit

Female M. m. vaginalis metaphase spread chromosomes

Paleontological evidence proves that Indian muntjacs have been around since the late Pleistocene epoch at least 12,000 years ago. Scientists are interested in studying muntjacs because between species, they have a wide variation in number of chromosomes; in fact, the Indian muntjac has the lowest recorded number of chromosomes of any mammal, with males having a diploid number of 7 and females having 6 chromosomes. They are the oldest known members of the deer family, and the earliest known deer-like creatures had horns instead of antlers, but the muntjac is the earliest known species to actually have antlers. Ancestor to muntjacs is the Dicrocerus elegans, which is the oldest known deer to shed antlers. Other fossils found that deer species experienced a split of the Cervinae from the Muntiacinae, the latter of which remained of similar morphology. Muntjacs of this time during the Miocene were smaller than their modern counterparts. Molecular data have suggested that Indian and Fea's muntjacs share a common ancestor, while giant muntjacs are more closely related to Reeve's muntjac. Although the muntjac deer has a long lineage, little has been studied in terms of their fossil record.[15] The female Indian muntjac deer is the mammal with the lowest recorded diploid number of chromosomes, where 2n = 6.[16] The male has a diploid number of seven chromosomes. In comparison, the similar Reeves's muntjac (M. reevesi) has a diploid number of 46 chromosomes.[15]


Two muntjacs and one wild boar hunted by the Poumai Naga in Manipur, India. Muntjac are hunted for meat and skin in several areas of South and Southeast Asia.

They have played a major role in Southern Asia, being hunted for sport and for their meat and skin. Often, these animals are hunted around the outskirts of agricultural areas, as they are considered a nuisance for damaging crops and ripping bark from trees.


  1. ^ a b Timmins, R.J.; Duckworth, J.W.; Hedges, S. (2016). "Muntiacus muntjak". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T42190A56005589. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T42190A56005589.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Barking Deer". Retrieved 9 September 2022. Muntjac deer fall in the category of those deer that are shy and elusive. They are also known by the name of Kakad deer or the Barking deer in India. The reason for the latter name is their alarm call, which seems very much similar to the barking of a dog.
  3. ^ Rajan Kanagasabai (23 April 2011). "The Barking Deer (Kabini Blog)". Orange County Resorts & Hotel Ltd. Retrieved 9 September 2022. It is also called the Kakad Deer in India.
  4. ^ Navneet 'NaMah' (17 June 2013). "Barking Deer - Kakad". Untamed Traveller. Retrieved 9 September 2022.
  5. ^ "ADW: Home". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  6. ^ "Burmah", Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed., vol. Vol. IV, 1876, p. 552
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  9. ^ Barrette, C. (1976). "Musculature of facial scent glands in the muntjac". Journal of Anatomy. 122 (Pt 1): 61–66. PMC 1231931. PMID 977477.
  10. ^ a b Grubb, P. (2005). "Muntiacus muntjak". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 667. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  11. ^ Teng, L.; Lui, Z.; Song, Y.-L.; Zeng, Z. (2004). "Forage and bed sites characteristic of Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) in Hainan Island, China". Ecological Research. 19 (6): 675–681. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1703.2004.00683.x. S2CID 29230596.
  12. ^ Rau, Urmila R.; Rao, K. N. A. (1971). "Ornithodoros (O.) indica sp. n. (Ixodoidea Argasidae), a Parasite of the Barking Deer in the North-Eastern Frontier Agency of India". The Journal of Parasitology. 57 (2): 432–435. doi:10.2307/3278056. JSTOR 3278056.
  13. ^ Eisenberg, J. F.; McKay, G. M. (1974). "Comparison of ungulate adaptations in the new world and the old world tropical forests with special reference to Ceylon and the rainforests of Central America" (PDF). In Geist, V.; Walther, F. (eds.). The behaviour of ungulates and its relation to management. Morges, Switzerland: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. pp. 584–602.
  14. ^ Odden, M.; Wegge, P. (2007). "Predicting spacing behavior and mating systems of solitary cervids: A study of hog deer and Indian muntjac". Journal of Zoology. 110 (4): 261–270. doi:10.1016/j.zool.2007.03.003. PMID 17614268.
  15. ^ a b Wurster, D. H.; Benirschke, K. (1970). "Indian Momtjac, Muntiacus muntiak: A Deer with a Low Diploid Chromosome Number". Science. 168 (3937): 1364–1366. Bibcode:1970Sci...168.1364W. doi:10.1126/science.168.3937.1364. PMID 5444269. S2CID 45371297.
  16. ^ Kinnear, J. F. (2006). "Nature of Biology". Chromosomes: How Many? (3 ed.). Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd. ISBN 9780731402366.

Further readingEdit