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Southern red muntjac

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Southern red muntjac
Adult female and offspring (Muntiacus muntjak), in Malaysia, September 2012
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Cervidae
Subfamily: Cervinae
Genus: Muntiacus
M. muntjak
Binomial name
Muntiacus muntjak
(Zimmermann, 1780)
Range of the northern red muntjac (M. vaginalis) and the southern red muntjac (M. muntjak)
  • Cervus muntjac

The southern red muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) is a deer species native to Southeast Asia. It was formerly known as the Indian muntjac or the common muntjac before the species was taxonomically revised to represent only populations of Sunda and perhaps Malaysia. The other populations being attributed to this species are now attributed to Muntiacus vaginalis (Northern red muntjac). Muntjacs are also referred to as barking deer. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.[1]

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.[2]


The species was formerly classified as Cervus muntjac.[3]



The Southern red 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 and 35 kg (29 and 77 lb),[4][5] 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.[6]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The southern red muntjac (previously known as the common muntjac) is one the least known mammals of Southeast Asia. It is found in the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo.[1] It is also assumed to be present in peninsular Thailand and southwestern Myanmar.[1] It is extinct in Singapore.[1]M. muntjak is a terrestrial mammal that live in forests and is resilient to changes in its habitat.[1]

Distribution of subspecies (MSW3)[edit]

M. m. aureus in India. This subspecies is now included under the northern red muntjac (M. vaginalis)
M. m. curvostylis in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. This subspecies is now included under the northern red muntjac (M. vaginalis).
M. vaginalis in Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. This species was formerly included under M. muntjak.

There were 15 subspecies included under the species in MSW3 :[7]

Distribution of subspecies (IUCN and MDD)[edit]

1-2 of them have since been elevated to species status : M. malabaricus (Malabar red muntjak) and M. vaginalis (northern red muntjac).[8][9][10]

The subspecies bancanus, montanus, muntjak, nainggolani, peninsulae, pleiharicus, robinsoni, rubidus are included in the southern red muntjak (M. muntjak), while annamensis, aureus, curvostylis, grandicornis, nigripes are included in the northern red muntjac (M. vaginalis).[11]

Ecology and behavior[edit]

Alarm calls

The Southern red muntjac is also called "barking deer" due to the bark-like sound that it makes as an alarm when danger is present. Other than during the rut (mating season) and for the first six months after giving birth, the adult 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.[12] 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, Asiatic black bears, fishing cats, Asian golden cats and golden jackals.[5] 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.


The Southern red muntjacs are polygamous animals. Females become 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. 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.[13]

Evolution and genetics[edit]

Female M. m. vaginalis metaphase spread chromosomes

Paleontological evidence proves that Southern red 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 southern red 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 Southern red muntjacs 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.[14] The female Southern red muntjac deer is the mammal with the lowest recorded diploid number of chromosomes, where 2n = 6.[15] 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.[14]


Two southern red muntjacs and a wild boar hunted by the Poumai Naga people. Muntjac are hunted for meat and skin in several areas of South and Southeast Asia.

Southern red muntjacs are hunted for sport and for their meat and skin around the outskirts of agricultural areas, as they are considered a nuisance for damaging crops and ripping bark from trees.


  1. ^ a b c d e f 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 10 February 2023.
  2. ^ "Muntiacus muntjak". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  3. ^ "Burmah", Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed., vol. Vol. IV, 1876, p. 552
  4. ^ animaldiversity.org/accounts/Muntiacus_muntjak/
  5. ^ a b eol.org/pages/308397/data
  6. ^ Barrette, C. (1976). "Musculature of facial scent glands in the muntjac". Journal of Anatomy. 122 (Pt 1): 61–66. PMC 1231931. PMID 977477.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Timmins, R.J.; Steinmetz, R.; Samba Kumar, N.; Anwarul Islam, Md.; Sagar Baral, H. (2016). "Muntiacus vaginalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T136551A22165292. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T136551A22165292.en.
  9. ^ "Muntiacus vaginalis (id=1006338)". ASM Mammal Diversity Database. American Society of Mammalogists. Retrieved 10 February 2023.
  10. ^ "Muntiacus malabaricus (id=1006331)". ASM Mammal Diversity Database. American Society of Mammalogists. Retrieved 10 February 2023.
  11. ^ "Muntiacus muntjak (id=1006332)". ASM Mammal Diversity Database. American Society of Mammalogists. Retrieved 14 February 2023.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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. Bibcode:2007Zool..110..261O. doi:10.1016/j.zool.2007.03.003. PMID 17614268.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Kinnear, J. F. (2006). "Nature of Biology". Chromosomes: How Many? (3 ed.). Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd. ISBN 9780731402366.

Further reading[edit]