The Tufted Deer Elaphodus cephalophus

Measurements: Head-Body Length- 110 to 160 cm Shoulder height- 50 to 70 cm Tail length- 7 to 15 cm Weight- 17 to 50 kg


The Tufted Deer gets its name from the distinctive tuft of hair seen on the top of its head. This tuft shows up clearly as it is darker in colour than the rest of the body and is a blackish brown. The coat is short and dense, the hairs being rather spiky and giving the Tufted Deer a shaggy appearance. In colour the coat is a chocolate brown. The under parts are paler in colour being a whitish grey. The head and neck are a darker grey colour. There are white markings on the face, the tip of the ears and on the underside of the tail, these areas stand out well against the dull colouration of the rest of the body. The white face markings sometimes run around the eyes and towards the top of the head.

The Tufted Deer is larger in size than the Muntjac species of deer to which it is closely related. The males are normally larger in size than the females. Like many of the Muntjac species the males have well-developed upper canine teeth that protrude from the upper lip and are clearly visible as ‘fangs’. These can be as much as 2.5 cm long. Only the males carry antlers but these are small simple spikes, the pedicles of the antlers are normally as long or longer than the antlers themselves. Tufted Deer have no upper incisors; instead they have a hard pad of gum, which is used for tugging at vegetation.

There are three subspecies of tufted deer, the Western Tufted Deer (E. c. cephalophus cephalophus), the Hubei (E. c. ichangensis) and the Eastern or Michie’s Tufted Deer (E. c. michianus). The largest of these is the Western Tufted Deer which is found in southern China. The other subspecies are found further north in central China.

Habitat and Distribution

The Tufted Deer is found in thick dense forest, mostly in hilly or mountainous areas. It is mostly seen around rivers or other sources of water. They are found at altitudes of between 300 and 4600 metres.
There distribution range covers parts of north eastern Myanmar, and southern and central China. They are not thought to be endangered, with their being an estimated 500,000 in the wild. However hunting and habitat degradation due to logging may be causing a decrease in numbers. Little is known about the population trends in this animal. A large number of animals are caught each year by man for their meat and furs.


The diet is made up of a variety of grasses and herbaceous plants found on the hill and mountainsides where it lives.


In captivity Tufted Deer can live for up to 15 years.


Mating takes place in the late Autumn or early Winter. They have a distinct short bark like rut call. Males may fight using their tusks over the territories and who gets the right to breed with receptive females. Females breed with males from close by, or if they live in a pair bond they breed with their partner. A single young is born after a 175 to 185 day long gestation period. The young is spotted at birth, and these spots fade with age. The young are weaned at about 6 months of age. They reach maturity at about 18 months of age. Little is known about the reproductive habits of this species, not much research has been conducted.



The Tufted Deer leads a mostly solitary life, but does sometimes form pair bonds. They live in small well-defended territories. They form a network of well-worn tracks through their territory along their most used trails. They feed mostly at dawn and at dusk, resting through the middle part of the day. When feeding or running the tail is held elevated exposing its white underside. When alarmed they emit a short bark like call. They have a number of predators including the snow leopard and the dhole.