An article by Mohan Pai
Also called the Barking deer. Its call from a distance
sounds much like the bark of a dog and hence the
The more common of the two small forest ruminants, the Indian Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) is also commonly called the “barking deer” due to the bark-like sound that it makes as an alarm when danger is present. Sometimes these deer will bark for an hour or more. The Indian Muntjacs specifically are widespread throughout Southern Asia, but are one of the least known Asian animals. It is hunted for its meat and skin. Often, these animals are hunted around the outskirts of agricultural areas because they can be considered a nuisance damaging crops and ripping bark off of trees.
The Indian Muntjac has a short but very soft, thick, dense coat, especially those living in cooler regions. Coloration of the coat changes from dark brown to yellowish and grayish brown depending on the season. The Muntjacs’ coat is golden tan on the dorsal side and white on the ventral side of the body, the limbs are dark brown to reddish brown, and the face is dark brown. However, the ears have very little hair which barely covers them. Male muntjacs have antlers that are very short, about 1-2 inches, usually consisting of only two or three points at the most and protrude from long body hair covered pedicels on the forehead. Females have tufts of fur and small bony knobs where the antlers are located in males. Males also have slightly elongated upper canines about an inch long that curve slightly outward from the lips and have the capability to inflict serious injury upon other animals or to other members of the population while exhibiting aggression. Males are generally larger than females. The body length of Muntjacs varies from 35-53 in. and their height ranges from 15-26 in.
The Indian Muntjac is the most widespread but least known of all the animals in South Asia. This species is distributed throughout South Asia, but more densely located in Southeastern Asia. The Muntjac Prefers hilly and moist areas in thick deciduous forest. They are found throughout India except J&K, High Himalayas and arid/desert areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan. They never wander far from water. Also, males usually have their own territory which may overlap the territories of a few females but not of another male.
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. Their large canines 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 six to seven months and they usually bear one offspring at a time but sometimes produce twins. Males often fight between one another for possession of a harem of females. There is no evidence of a specific breeding season within the species.
Indian Muntjacs are regarded as extremely solitary animals, rarely observed with other muntjacs, except for a mother and her young and during the rutting season. Males acquire territories that they mark with scent markers. These deer are incredibly alert creatures. When put into a stressful situation or if a predator is sensed, Muntjacs will 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.
Pic courtesy: Deer-Pictures.com
References: Wikipedia, A field guide to Indian Mammals by Vivek Menon,The book of Indian animalsby S. H. Pratter.
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