The Barasingha deer (Rucervus Duvaucelii) is also called the swamp deer and it’s one of the most famed deer of the Indian subcontinent. You’ll find fragmented populations in both central and northern India, and there are two isolated populations of Barasingha deer in Nepal’s southwestern region.
Barasingha are now extinct in both Bangladesh, and in Pakistan (where it once lived).
One of the unique aspects of the swamp deer is that its antlers can have more than three tines, and its name translates from the Hindustani “barah-singga” (which means “twelve-horned” deer).
Mature Barasinga stags can have 10 to 14 tines on their impressive rack of antlers, with the most impressive stags carrying as many as 20.
How Big is the Barasinga Deer?
- Body & Head Length – up to 180 cm
- Shoulder Height – 115 cm
- Tail length – 12 to 20 cm
- Weight – up to 280 kg
Barasinga Physical Appearance & Identifiable Features
The name Barasingha is derived from the Hindu words for ‘twelve ends’, referring to this deer’s many tined antlers, which usually has 12 tines, but can have up to 20 in some animals.
The Barasingha is a high-legged deer, with a short head that has long broad ears. The hooves are long and broad. The summer coat is a yellowish brown colour, but in the winter months is darker in colouration. Some individuals have whitish yellow spots scattered over their coat. The hair around the neck can be longer, forming a shaggy mane; this is most noticeable in the winter months.
The Barasingha’s face has a dark mask. As mentioned the antlers have many tines. The antlers are cast mostly in February.
Rucervus Duvaucelii Habitat
Swamp deer, as their name suggest, are mostly found in marshy and damp areas, such as reed beds and marshes.
You’ll find Barasingha deer along rivers, and close to water. They can dwell in open parkland, but usually close to a source of water.
Where is the Barasingha Deer Located?
The Barasingha had a wide distribution across the whole of the Indian peninsula, however its populations have fallen because of habitat loss and over hunting.
The areas in which it lives, are often areas of potential agricultural value. Indian population increase has eliminated important habitat to make way for food production.
The Barasingha populations are now restricted to isolated and scattered locations in Nepal, Assam and the northern areas of India.
Unique Behavior of the Barasingha Deer
The Barasingha has a loud barking call which is used to signal danger, and which is similar to the roe deer‘s.
It feeds by day, but will rest during the hottest times. In winter large groups form, but in the summer these split into smaller herds composed mainly of females and their current young. At these times the males live separately from the females in small bachelor groups.
Barasingha are a very apprehensive and nervous deer, sensitive to disturbance, and easily spooked. They have a number of predators in the wild including the tiger.
Reproduction in Swamp Deer
Males have a very ritualized rutting behavior.
The rut starts in October. The males compete with each other to mate with female harems. Males fight by facing each other at a distance. Barasingha stags lower their antlers, pointing them directly at their opponent. They then often scrape the ground with their hooves, before racing at each other and clashing the antlers together.
Eventually one of the males will retreat, leaving the victor in possession of the female herd. The males have a distinctive 2 syllable rutting call.
Gestation in female Barasingha does lasts 240 to 250 days, and the females give birth to one or sometimes two young. The young are spotted, but the spots fade as the young grow, as is common in many deer species.
How Long do Barsingha Live?
Barasingha deer have a lifespan of up to 20 years.
What do Barasingha Swamp Deer Eat?
Barsingha eat predominantly wetland plants and herbaceous plants which are common in this deer’s natural habitat. They also graze on various types of grasses.