There are believed to be dozens of deer species throughout the world. The main categories of species of deer include Elk, Caribou, White-Tailed Deer, Mule Deer, and Moose. The number of deer subspecies worldwide varies depending on who you ask. According to onekindplanet.org, there are over 60 different species of deer worldwide. Newborn deer are called fawns, female deer are called does or hinds, and a buck or a stag is a male deer.
The only group of animals in the world that have antlers are deer. They are the only mammals that can completely regenerate an organ. The fastest-growing living tissue in the world is from antlers. The way to differentiate between does and bucks is by the presence of antlers. The only female deer to grow antlers are the Reindeer. Chinese water deer are the only species that don’t grow antlers. Instead, they have long canine teeth which can be as long as 3 inches.
Antlers fall off and regrow each year. The furry coat that covers the antlers as they regrow is called velvet. The antlers regrow so quickly because they are rich in blood vessels and nerves. The mating season is called the rut and the male deer, or bucks, will use their antlers to fight over the females and the male who overpowers the other is the winner.
The life span of most deer average 10 to 12 years, but because of dangers such as collisions with cars and predators, quite a few will die long before. According to Guinness World Records, “the oldest deer ever recorded was Bambi, a hand-reared Scottish red deer owned by the Fraser family from Kiltarlity in Beauly, Highland, UK. Bambi was born on 8 June 1963 and died on 20 January 1995 at the age of 31 years 226 days.”
Deer are found on all continents, even Antarctica and Australia. Antarctica has Reindeer (Caribou) on some islands but they are not native to the continent. There is a wide range of habitats that deer can live in, from mountainous areas all the way to warm and wet rainforests.
White Tail Deer
The White-tailed deer are considered to be small in size. They have pointy antlers and their distinguishing features is the tail with white coloring underneath it. The older males also develop white under their necks and bellies. The more they mature the larger those areas of white will be. This is one type of deer that many people are familiar with. This is also the type that is commonly hunted because they have such a large population.
Whitetail deer are most abundant in the eastern U.S., though none of the contiguous 48 states are devoid of the animal, and the only states lacking viable populations are California, Nevada, and Utah. In conjunction with its abundance, the white-tail's ability and willingness to live near human population centers make it the most commonly sighted (and photographed, and hunted, and run over) large wild mammal we have.
White-tailed deer, the smallest members of the North American deer family, are found from southern Canada to South America. In the heat of summer, they typically inhabit fields and meadows using clumps of broad-leaved and coniferous forests for shade. During the winter they generally keep to forests, preferring coniferous stands that provide shelter from the harsh elements.
Adult white-tails have reddish-brown coats in summer which fade to a duller grayish-brown in winter. Male deer, called bucks, are easily recognizable in the summer and fall by their prominent set of antlers, which are grown annually and fall off in the winter. Only the bucks grow antlers, which bear several tines, or sharp points. During the mating season, also called the rut, bucks fight over territory by using their antlers in sparring matches.
Female deer, called does, give birth to one to three young at a time, usually in May or June and after a gestation period of seven months. Young deer, called fawns, wear a reddish-brown coat with white spots that help them blend in with the forest.
White-tailed deer are herbivores, leisurely grazing on most available plant foods. Their stomachs allow them to digest a varied diet, including leaves, twigs, fruits and nuts, grass, corn, alfalfa, and even lichens and other fungi. Occasionally venturing out in the daylight hours, white-tailed deer are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular, browsing mainly at dawn and dusk.
In the wild, white-tail deer are preyed upon by bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes, particularly fawns. They use speed and agility to outrun predators, sprinting up to 30 miles per hour and leaping as high as 10 feet and as far as 30 feet in a single bound.
Caribou are very large types of deer. However, they have a unique design to their hooves, so they are able to walk on top of soft ground. They can also use them to dig in the snow to get to food sources below. That is important because Caribou often live in colder regions and they need that resource for survival. This is one of the very few species of deer where both sexes end up growing antlers.
Reindeer and caribou are classified as the same genus and species, Rangifer tarandus. In Europe, they are called reindeer. In North America, the name reindeer is used when referring to Eurasian populations and the name caribou to refer to wild populations in North America. We also use reindeer to refer to domesticated individuals, even those in North America.
Antlers are the reindeer’s most memorable characteristic. In comparison to body size, reindeer have the largest and heaviest antlers of all living deer species. A male’s antlers can measure up to 51 inches (130 centimeters) long, and a female’s antlers can reach 20 inches (50 centimeters). Just as a tree has a trunk, so all antlers have a main beam and several branches or tines that grow from the frontal bones of the skull. Sometimes little branchlets or snags are also present. The tip of each antler is called a point. Unlike horns, antlers fall off and grow back larger every year. As new antlers grow, the reindeer is said to be in velvet, because skin, blood vessels, and soft fur cover the developing antlers. When the velvet dries up, the reindeer rubs it off against rocks or trees, revealing the hardened, bony core.
Males begin to grow antlers in February and females in May. They both finish growing their antlers at the same time but shed their antlers at different times of the year. A male drops his in November, leaving him without antlers until the following spring, while female reindeer keep their antlers through the winter until their calves are born in May.
Elk, also called wapiti, are the largest and most advanced subspecies of red deer, found in North America and in high mountains of Central Asia. Exceeded in size only by the moose, large male elk from Alberta average 840 pounds in early winter. Body mass varies considerably within and between populations and increases from south to north. Exceptional bulls exceed 1,100 pounds in weight; bulls from southern California average about 240 pounds. Compared with other red deer, female elk are more similar to bulls in external appearance and body mass. During winter all elk have well-developed, dark neck manes that contrast sharply with their tan or light brown body color.
Elk are classic red deer in their biology. However, they are more highly adapted to life in open plains, to grazing, and to cold, long winters. They were created as fast endurance runners that are exceedingly difficult to catch even with the best of horses, particularly in broken terrain. Nevertheless, they get their chief protection from predators by forming large groups.
Compared with European red deer, elk have longer gestation periods (255 days, versus 235 days in the European red deer), and the bulls retain their antlers longer (about 185 days, versus 150 or less in European red deer). In North America, free of competing red deer, elk are found in diverse habitats from the Yukon to northern Mexico and from Vancouver Island to Pennsylvania. They thrive in coniferous rain forests along the Pacific coast, prairies, aspen parklands, sagebrush flats, eastern deciduous forests, the Rocky Mountains, and the once swampy valleys of California. Elk shun deserts, boreal forests, and tundra. Due to their wide distribution, elk from different regions in North America can differ considerably in size and antler growth. However, elk are remarkably homogeneous genetically throughout their range, even in their Asian populations.
All male elk, American and Asian, have a high-pitched bugling call used during the rut. This call is a vocal adaptation designed to carry sound across long distances in open landscapes. On rare occasions, females bugle.
Elk have been traditionally used on Asian deer farms dedicated to the production of velvet antlers, and this practice has spread globally. (Growing antlers are covered in a blood-engorged skin called velvet.) The velvet antlers are cut off bulls’ heads and are ultimately processed into medicines.
Moose are the largest member of the deer family. Moose are striking in appearance because of their towering size, black color, long legs, pendulous muzzle, and dangling hairy dewlap (called a bell) and the immense, wide, flat antlers of old bulls. In Europe moose are called elk.
Moose inhabit the northern parts of North America and Eurasia. The largest moose specimens are found in Alaska and eastern Siberia; there bulls weigh 1,300 pounds and stand 7 feet tall at the shoulder. The smallest moose are found in its southernmost populations in Wyoming and Manchuria, where large bulls weigh 660–770 pounds.
Moose primarily exploit plant communities of deciduous shrubs that have been disturbed by flooding, avalanches, or forest fires. They are avid visitors to mineral licks. In winter they may also avidly consume conifers such as fir and yew. In areas of very deep snow, moose may tramp a system of trails called a “moose yard.” In summer they may also consume large amounts of aquatic vegetation. The large, mobile, sensitive muzzle appears to be a specialized feeding organ that allows moose to exploit the large stocks of submerged aquatic vegetation in shallow lakes and streams. Moose may dive and stay up to 50 seconds underwater while feeding. Even calves are excellent swimmers.
Moose are bold and readily defend themselves against large carnivores. During calving season, moose cows face grizzly and black bears. In late winter when the snow is deep and moose cannot flee, they defend themselves against wolf packs. They choose hard, level ground with little snow for maneuverability, such as ridges blown free of snow or frozen lakes with a thin cover of snow. When hindered by deep snow, they back into dense conifers to protect their vulnerable inguinal region and lower haunches from attacks by wolves. They may then charge the wolves and attack them by slapping them with their front legs and kicking them with their hind legs. These blows are powerful enough to kill wolves.
Moose have killed humans. In Siberia, hunters armed with muzzle-loading guns feared wounded moose far more than they feared the large brown bear. Due to the thick skin on its head and neck and its dense skull, an attacking moose could not be readily stopped with a small, round rifle ball of soft lead.
Moose normally escape predators by trotting at high speed, which forces the pursuing smaller predators into expensive and tiring jumping but which costs a moose relatively little energy. It readily comes to bay but on its terms: it chooses low water where wolves are hampered in their movements. Although moose are excellent swimmers, they do not choose deeper water, because northern wolves have relatively large paws and so are also excellent swimmers. Predation by wolves and bears removes the infirm but may also severely deplete healthy calves, despite the spirited defense of their mothers.
Moose mate in September so that the calves may be born in June to take advantage of spring vegetation. The antlers are shed of the blood-engorged skin called velvet in late August, and the bulls are in rut by the first week of September. Rutting bulls search widely for females, but the bulls may also attract females with the smell of their urine. They paw rutting pits with their forelegs, urinate into them, and splash the urine-soaked muck onto their hairy bells. Cows in turn may call to attract bulls. Actively rutting bulls appear to receive more than 50 punctures per mating season, but they are protected by a thick skin on the front and the neck. Rutting is expensive, as bulls lose virtually all of their body fat and their festering wounds must heal.
Because of their large body size, moose have a long gestation period of about 230 days. Twins are not uncommon. The young are born tan in color, which contrasts sharply with the dark color of adults. They grow very fast but still require maternal protection against wolves in winter. They are driven off by their mother shortly before she gives birth again. The dispersed yearlings roam in search of new living space.
Mule deer are dispersed throughout western North America from Alaska, along the West Coast to southern Baja Mexico, and up through the Great Plains to the Canadian provinces.
Mule deer are selective of what they eat, with a large part of their diet composed of weeds and vegetation, such as twigs and young shoots. Deer need to be selective about their diet because their digestive tracts differ from cattle and elk in that they have a smaller rumen in relation to their body size.
Mule deer get their name from their large mule-like ears. Mule deer are brown with a touch of grey in color, with a white tail and black tip. Just like a mule their grey face is contrasted with their extraordinary black forehead. Mule deer life span is usually around 10 years in the wild and can live longer when in captivity. Mule deer grow to an average from 3 feet tall at the shoulder, and up to 7 feet long. They can weigh between 130-280 pounds. The female deer are smaller than the male.
Although deer are not native to Australia, there are six known species of deer that call Australia home. The Australian bush is known for its large expanses so there may be more subspecies that have not been discovered yet. Four of these species are red, chital, hog, and rusa.
Rusa are medium sized, rough-coated deer which are biologically allied to the sambar. However, the two species are quite different in size, appearance, and behavior There are two subspecies established in the wild in Australia and the Javan rusa is the larger. Stags stand up to 3 ½ feet at the shoulder and may weigh around 300 pounds while hinds are considerably smaller at 3 feet at the shoulder and 132 pounds.
The coat hair is coarse and sparse and generally a greyish brown in color although the shade varies between the age groups and sexes and also seasonally. The underparts including the chest and throat are a light grey, almost white in some cases, which is a striking contrast to the main body color, and there is a line of dark hair which runs down the chest between the forelegs.
A rusa stag’s antlers are quite large in comparison with its body size, and very distinctive with a typical lyre shape. Most stags cast off their antlers in January or February.
Chital are the most attractive of all the deer species and are certainly one of the most beautiful of all wild animals. Their coloring is most striking, consisting of a reddish to chestnut brown coat with white spots, a striking white upper throat patch and a black dorsal stripe which also contains white spots in a fairly uniform pattern. The belly, inside of the legs and underneath part of the tail is also white. The tail is noticeably longer than in most deer species. The muzzle is a much darker brown than the rest of the face and the ears are pointed.
A mature stag may weigh in the vicinity of 176 pounds and hinds considerably less. Chital are closely allied to the hog deer but they are much taller at the shoulder, standing about 34 inches or a little more in the case of a big stag.
The antlers of a Chital stag are slender and usually of three points as in Sambar, Rusa, and hog deer. Measurement around the main beam rarely exceeds 4 inches and the two antlers usually form a ‘lyre’ shape with terminal forks. In Australia, the longest chital antlers may exceed 2 ½ feet.
Hog deer are the smallest of the six species of deer in Australia and although they are a close relative of the chital, bear little resemblance to them. They are similar in size to a sheep.
A mature hog deer stag stands about 2 ½ feet at the shoulder and weighs approximately 110 pounds while hinds are much smaller, standing about 2 feet and weighing in the vicinity of 66 pounds. They are very solidly built with a long body and relatively short legs and the line of the back slopes upward from the shoulders to a high rump. A hog deer normally carries its head low when searching for food and this attitude, combined with the quick rushing movement made by the deer when alarmed, is similar to that of a pig and probably the reason for its common name.
The hog deer’s coat is quite thick and generally uniform dark-brown in winter except for the underparts of the body and legs which are lighter in color. During late spring, the change to a summer coat of rich reddish brown commences although this may vary between individuals. Many hog deer show a dark dorsal stripe extending from the head down the back of the neck and along the spine. In summer, there is usually a uniform row of light-colored spots along either side of the dorsal stripe from the shoulders to the rump. The tail is short and brown but tipped with white. The underside of the tail is white, and the deer can fan the white hairs out in a distinctive alarm display.
The antler of a mature hog deer stag typically has three tined-brow tines with solid main beam terminating in inner and outer top tines. However, antlers with more points are not uncommon. The distinctive features of typical hog deer antlers are the acute angle between the brow tine and main beam and the fact that the inner tops tend to be short and angle back from the main beam and across towards the opposite antler.
Red deer are the second largest of Australia’s wild deer species and are probably the deer with which most mainland Australians are familiar because of their presence in large numbers on deer farms. A mature stag stands about 4 feet at the shoulder and weighs somewhere between 300 pounds and 350 pounds. Hinds are considerably smaller standing about 3 feet and weighing about 200 pounds. They are called red deer because their summer coat is a rich russet-brown on their body and outer legs. The underparts of the body and neck tend towards grey. Both sexes have a distinctive straw-colored patch on the rump or caudal area. In winter, their coats vary between dull brown and grey. Calves have white spots at birth, but this coat is soon replaced. At about six weeks of age they are a uniform dull brown in color.
The antlers of a mature red stag are quite impressive and consist of a main beam and three tines on the lower half of the antler. These are the brow tine which grows out of the main beam just above the coronet, the bez tine which is normally situated just above the brow, and the trez tine which protrudes from the main beam just below its half-way mark. The main beam usually ends in a terminal crown of two or three tines. A stag having brow, bez and trez tines and a crown of three terminal tines on both antlers is referred to as a ‘royal’. An abundance of good food may influence antler growth to such an extent that mature stags will commonly grow antlers with more than twelve points.
Barasingha, also called swamp deer, are graceful deer found in open forests and grasslands of India and Nepal. The barasingha stands about 45 inches at the shoulder. In summer its coat is reddish or yellowish brown with white spots; in winter its coat is heavier, particularly on the neck - brown with faint spots or none. The male of the species has long antlers that branch into a number of tines. Formerly more widespread, the barasingha is now found only in scattered areas and in national parks and reserves.
Called barking deer because of their cry, muntjacs are solitary and nocturnal, and they usually live in areas of thick vegetation. They are native to India, Southeast Asia, and southern China, and some have become established in parts of England and France. Fea’s muntjac, of Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, is an endangered species.
Most species of muntjacs stand 15–25 inches high at the shoulder and weigh 33–77 pounds. Depending on the species, they range from grayish brown or reddish to dark brown. Males have tusk like upper canine teeth that project from the mouth and can be used to inflict severe injuries. The short antlers have one branch and are borne on long bases from which bony ridges extend onto the face (hence another common name, rib-faced deer); the female has small knobs in place of antlers.
A Tufted deer's body is chocolate brown with a white belly and gray and white head and neck. It gets its name from the distinctive tuft of hair see on the top of its head. The tuft is darker in color than the rest of its body and is blackish brown. Coats are short and dense with spiky hairs, giving the tufted deer a shaggy appearance. Young are colored like adults with an additional row of white spots along each side of the spine. They grow to 3.6 – 5.3 ft long with a shoulder height of 1.6 – 2.3 ft and weigh 37 – 110 pounds.
Tufted deer can be found in high valley jungles and mountain forests from NE Burma (Myanmar) and Southern and Central China. Their main diet consists of leaves, twigs, fruits, grasses and other types of vegetation.
Bucks are known to fight over a territory and mates using their canines and antlers. Tufted deer are shy during the day and become more active at night. They reach maturity at 18-24 months and have 1-2 fawns per year. They have a lifespan of 15 years.
Chinese water deer are a very small Asian deer, native to fertile river bottoms in Korea and the Yangtze River valley in China. It is the only species of deer in which males lack antlers; instead, they are armed with long, curved, and sharp upper canine teeth that protrude from the mouth. These tusks may exceed 2 inches in length. The water deer is also the only deer with inguinal glands.
Males stand about 20 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 29 pounds; females weigh up to 24 pounds. They have a rather uniformly colored coat, yellowish brown above and yellowish white below. The tail is very short, and there is no rump patch. Their coarse, thick coat and fur-covered ears are adaptations to cold, snowy winters.
To evade predators, water deer rely on hiding and on bursts of quick, rabbit like, bounding flight. Generally, they are encountered alone; observations of captive animals suggest that males use their tusks to defend territories. Water deer prefer the lush vegetation that grows along river bottoms; there they eat a surprisingly large amount of coarse-fibered grasses that serve as both food and cover.
The breeding season extends from early November to February, and the fawning season lasts from late April to June. Water deer give birth to several young at a time. The fawns weigh less than 2 pounds at birth. They hide quickly and remain out of sight.
Sambar deer have many subspecies which vary in size and appearance, but it is known as the largest Oriental deer with some adult males reaching more than 1200 pounds. They have a thick coat of long, coarse hair which forms a dense mane around the neck, especially in males. The males can be distinguished by their antlers, as well as being slightly larger and darker than females and young.
Sambar Deer are quite elusive and are most active at dusk and at night. They are predated by Indian Leopard, Bengal Tiger and Dhole, which makes them an important component of the ecosystem. Although their first instinct is to freeze when disturbed, they will confront predators with loud alarm barks, stomps and the mane will erect to make them appear more intimidating.
The crest on the neck is also used as sexual ornamentation as males in breeding condition display a swollen neck, which is intensified by mud wallowing, which makes the individual appear larger and darker. Mating males also spray their bodies and the ground with urine, before rubbing their horns in the soil and rubbing them high on trees standing on their hind legs.
Sambar Deer are water-dependent, so they are never found far from water, but otherwise can be found in a broad range of forest habitats: dry deciduous forest, rainforest, and mixed forests. Their range is distributed from the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains across southern Asia and reaching the islands of Taiwan, Sumatra, and Borneo.
The Barbary stag is Africa’s only true native deer species. With its magnificent jagged horns, the Barbary stag makes quite an impression. It is part of the red deer species, which can also be seen across Central Asia, North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Caucasus. It thrives in dense, humid forested areas of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. It had initially been hunted to extinction in the latter, but specimens from the Tunisian population were reintroduced in the 1990s.
The Barbary stag is smaller than the typical red deer. Its body is dark brown with some white spots on its flanks and back. The males can weigh up to 500 pounds and the females around 330 pounds.
Relatively small deer with comparatively short body to long legs and neck. Normally only one or two are seen together. Distinctive black nose and white chin. Red/brown fur in summer, grey/brown in winter. Very small tail, either not visible or appears as small tuft. Cream/white rump, inverted heart shape in females and oval shape in males. The average height at shoulders is 25 to 30 inches with the males being slightly larger. They live to a maximum of about 16 years in the wild but most live only 7 years.
Roe deer are widespread throughout Scotland and much of England, and in many areas they are abundant. They are increasing their range, spreading southward from their Scottish refuge, and northward and westward from the reintroduced populations, but are not established in most of the Midlands and Kent. They have never been seen in Ireland. They are generally found in open mixed, coniferous, or purely deciduous woodland, particularly at edges between woodland and open habitats. Roe deer feed throughout the 24 hours but are most active at dusk and dawn.
The fallow deer and the various subspecies of the reindeer have the largest as well as the heaviest antlers, both in absolute terms as well as in proportion to body mass (an average of 0.28 oz per kilogram of body mass).
Even in their native Mediterranean countries, fallow deer are rare for “wild” animals. Most herds are semi-domesticated. Fallow deer are the most widely kept of the world’s deer and have been introduced to all inhabited continents.
Coloration is highly diverse, as up to 14 variations occur from white through shades of reddish-brown to dark brown, with some adults retaining their original spotted markings. Whatever color they are born will be the color they retain for life.
The rump of the fallow deer is white; when alarmed, the hairs on the rump stand erect and the tail is held high, revealing a flash, which warns other deer of the threat. Their main defenses are running away and hiding, although hooves, antlers and teeth are used as a last resort. When threatened, the frightened fallows flee into the woods, using their varied coat colors effectively as camouflage.
Does and young remain within the male territories, and as each doe comes into heat, she is followed until mating is accomplished. After the rut, males generally cease defending their territories and form bachelor herds, while females and young remain segregated from males and in their own groups.
The bucks shed their antlers and grow a new rack in time for the next rut. The number of points on their antlers increases with age.
Fawns weigh approximately 10 pounds at birth. During the first few days of life, the fawn is concealed in bracken or other suitable undergrowth with its only protection being the camouflage coloring of its coat and the absence of any scent to betray it to predators.
Fallow deer do much of their feeding in open, grassy areas but require tree cover and undergrowth for shelter. Food availability appears to determine whether fallow deer in an area are predominantly grazers or browsers.
The marsh deer once thrived throughout much of South America, from Argentina to Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, and Peru. Today, the species is in decline throughout most of its historical range. One of the corners of South America where this beautiful reddish-brown, black-legged deer has found a refuge is the wetland habitat contained within Tambopata National Reserve, in the Amazon forests of southeastern Peru.
As its name suggests, this deer favors the marshy conditions found in parts of the continent south of the Amazon River, as far south in fact as Argentina. Such areas offer them better protection against the major predators of the Amazon basin, including the jaguar and puma. Once found in Uruguay also, hunting and habitat loss have led to its total extinction in that country. Historically, wetland drainage for agriculture has had the most dramatic effect upon marsh deer numbers throughout their former range. In some parts of South America, water pollution and the accidental transmission of bovine diseases from cattle have also caused deer numbers to decline.
The vast area of wetland contained within the borders of Tambopata National Reserve favors this timid and rarely seen deer, and its presence has been reported on the Pampas de Heath, where wetland systems are fed by the Heath River. While they tend to favor shallow waters, when necessary they are able swimmers. Equipped with membranes, this deer’s large hooves are well-adapted for swimming and for coping with its preferred wetland habitat.
With a body length of up to 6.5 feet and shoulder height of 4 feet, this is one of the largest deer in South America. Adult males can weigh up to 330 pounds, while females have been reported as weighing up to 220 pounds. Their appearance resembles that of the North American black-tailed deer. Only the males have antlers, which can be up to 2 feet in length. Marsh deer are believed to live for around 15 years in the wild.
In their preferred wetland habitat, marsh deer will tend to feed on grasses, reeds, and aquatic plant species. During flooding, when such plant species may be unavailable for extended periods, they have been known to widen their preferences to include shrubs and vines.
Marsh deer are predominantly nocturnal and do not form herds. When they are spotted in southeastern Peru, they tend to be found alone, although they may also roam in small groups of two or three individuals.
The pudús are the world's smallest deer, with the southern pudú being slightly larger than the northern pudú. The southern pudu has a coat which is short, glossy, and dark brown to reddish-brown in color, with slightly lighter legs and underparts. The insides of its ears and its lips are orangish. Fawns have white spots, probably for camouflage. Males have short, simple spiked antlers which are shed each year in July.
Southern pudus are natives of southwestern Argentina and southern Chile. They live between the Maule River in the north and the Chiloé province in the south. They prefer temperate rainforest with bamboo thickets and dense underbrush, as this offers good cover from predators. They will occasionally venture into more open habitats when feeding. Southern pudus occur on high mountainsides as high as 1,700 m above sea level, and much lower down and along the coast.
Southern pudus are active during the day as well as the night. They usually rest and groom in the middle of the day, being active in the morning, late afternoon, and evening. They seem to move together when feeding, and do not form groups of more than 2 or 3. Most of the time they are sedentary, solitary, and cryptic. A pudú navigates through the thick jungle along a network of well-used trails, which lead to places for feeding and resting. They form dung piles, most of which are near resting places. Pudús are territorial animals with home range about 40-60 acres. They are wary animals and move slowly, stopping often, testing the air for predators' scent. A proficient jumper, climber and sprinter, a deer will flee in a zigzag path while being pursued.
The taruca is a medium-sized deer with a heavy body. It measures 50 to 57 in from head to rump, with a 4.3 to 5.1 in tail, and stands 27 to 31 in tall at the shoulder. Adults weigh between 152 and 176 lb. As with most deer, males are significantly larger than females.
It has sandy brown hair over most of its body, with white patches on the underside of its head, neck, tail, and genital region, and on the inner surface of its fore-legs. While females often have a dark brown area on the forehead, facial markings are much clearer in the males. The exact patterns vary between different males, but in general there is a black behind the nose, and a black Y or V pattern over the forehead and snout.
Male tarucas have antlers, typically measuring 11 inches in length once fully grown. Unlike all other South American deer, except for the closely related huemul, the antlers consist of just two tines, branching close to the base, and with the posterior tine being the larger. Males also possess canine teeth in their upper jaw, which females usually, but not always, lack.
Tarucas are found only in the Andes mountains, from central Peru, through Bolivia and extreme north-eastern Chile, and into northern Argentina. In Argentina, they are found between 2,000 and 3,000 m (6,600 and 9,800 ft), but the elevation of their preferred habitat gradually rises as they approach the equator, until it reaches 3,500 to 5,000 m (11,500 to 16,400 ft) in Peru. Within this region, they are found in grasslands marked by occasional shrubs and rocky outcrops, typically close to water. There are no recognized subspecies.
Despite living in grasslands, the taruca feeds mainly on the local bushes, shrubs, and herbs for much of the year, but supplements this diet with grasses during the rainy season. Plants commonly eaten include dwarf gentian, ragworts, lupins, senna, valerian, and clubmosses. Tarucas may also feed on agricultural crops, such as alfalfa, barley, and potato plants.
Tarucas are gregarious, but do not live in stable herds, with individuals moving between groups of up to thirty members each over the course of a few days. Their populations are scattered, due to their need for relatively specialized habitats, with population densities as low as 0.15/square km (0.39/square mile), even away from human habitation. Individual groups are typically led by the females. During the breeding season, males may compete with one another, displaying threatening behavior by raising their forelegs one at a time and pointing their antlers towards one another.
Our amazing planet earth is home to such a wide variety of deer. We find them on every continent and in every shape and size. From North America we find the Moose and elk as the largest deer to South America we find the Pudú as one of the cutest and smallest deer; they are animals of outstanding grace and beauty. Next time you are on an outdoor adventure keep your eyes open for one of these amazingly calm animals.