Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Barasingha (Indian Swamp Deer)

Barasingha UPSC (Indian Swamp Deer UPSC) 

The barasingha, also known as the Indian swamp deer, is a species of deer native to the Indian subcontinent. The term "swamp deer" is used because of their preference for wetland habitats. They are good swimmers and are often found in areas with abundant water.

The term "barasingha" is derived from the Hindi words "bara," which means twelve, and "singha," which means tine or antler. This name refers to the impressive antlers that mature males (stags) develop.

The barasingha is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Table of Contents

  • Barasingha Characteristics
    • Classification
    • Scientific Name
    • Subspecies
    • Habitat
    • Physical Appearance
    • Diet
    • Behavior
    • Reproduction
    • Lifespan
    • Speed
    • Cultural Significance
  • Barasingha Distribution in India
  • Barasingha Protection Status
  • Barasingha Conservation
  • Threats
  • Barasingha UPSC Question

Barasingha (Indian Swamp Deer) Characteristics

What is the Speciality of Barasingha?

The barasingha, or Indian swamp deer, possesses several distinctive characteristics that set it apart from other deer species. Here are some key features:

1. Classification:

The barasingha, or Indian swamp deer, belongs to the following classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Artiodactyla
  • Family: Cervidae
  • Genus: Rucervus
  • Species: Rucervus duvaucelii

2. Scientific Name:

The scientific name of the barasingha is Rucervus duvaucelii.

3. Subspecies:

There are three recognized subspecies of the barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii). The subspecies are adapted to different habitats in various regions of the Indian subcontinent. Here are the three recognized subspecies:

(i) Western Swamp Deer (Rucervus duvaucelii duvaucelii):

This subspecies is found in parts of Nepal and is adapted to flooded grassland habitats of the Indo-Gangetic plain.

(ii) Southern Swamp Deer or Hard Ground Barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii branderi):

This subspecies is found in central and north India, particularly in open sal forests, and is adapted to hard ground.

(iii) Eastern Swamp Deer (Rucervus duvaucelii ranjitsinhi):

This subspecies is found in Assam, primarily in Kaziranga National Park, and is adapted to swampy habitats. The eastern swamp deer is considered endemic to Kaziranga. It is also found in the Dudhwa National Park of Uttar Pradesh.

4. Habitat:

The barasingha, or Indian swamp deer, exhibits habitat preferences that are adapted to wetland environments. Here are some key points about the habitat of the barasingha:

(i) Preference for Wetlands:

Barasinghas are typically found in flat or undulating grasslands, floodplains, and marshes. They have a strong affinity for wetland habitats and are often associated with areas near water sources.

(ii) Marshes and Floodplains:

Barasinghas thrive in marshy areas and floodplains, where they can find suitable vegetation for grazing and cover for protection. These habitats often have a mix of grasses and aquatic plants that form an important part of their diet.

(iii) Proximity to Forests:

While they are associated with wetlands, barasinghas may also be found in areas on the outskirts of forests. They may utilize open forested areas, especially if these are adjacent to their preferred wetland habitats.

(iv) Adaptability:

Barasinghas are adaptable and can navigate different types of terrain. They are known to move between wetlands and adjacent areas, displaying a degree of flexibility in their habitat use.

5. Physical Appearance:

The physical appearance of the barasingha is characterized by various distinctive features. Here are key aspects of their physical appearance:

(i) Size: 

Barasinghas are among the largest deer species in India. Adult males (stags) are generally larger than females (hinds). They have a robust and sturdy build.

  • Shoulder height ranges from 44 to 46 inches (110 to 120 cm).
  • Head-to-body length is nearly 6 feet (180 cm).

(ii) Weight:

The weight of barasingha can vary between males and females, as well as among individuals. Here are some general weight ranges for barasingha:

Males: Stags typically weigh between 170 to 280 kg (370 to 620 lb). Large stags have been known to weigh even more, with some reaching weights from 210 to 260 kg (460 to 570 lb).

Females: Females are generally lighter than males, with weights ranging from about 130 to 145 kg (287 to 320 lb).

(iii) Coat Color: 

The color of the coat varies with the seasons. During the summer, the coat is typically reddish-brown, while in the winter, it becomes darker and more grayish. The coat can be somewhat shaggy.

(iv) White Markings: 

Barasinghas often have a white patch on their throat, and their underparts are paler in color. These white markings provide a distinct contrast to the rest of their coat.

(v) Antlers: 

One of the most notable features of barasinghas is their antlers. Mature males develop antlers with twelve or more tines (points). The name "barasingha" itself is derived from the Hindi words "barah" (twelve) and "singha" (horn).

(vi) Antler Size:

The antlers of barasinghas can grow up to 75 cm (30 inches) in length. The number of tines can vary, with some individuals having even more than twelve. The antlers are shed and regrown annually.

(vii) Sexual Dimorphism:

Females are generally paler in color than males.

6. Diet:

The barasingha is primarily herbivorous and has a diet that consists of various plant materials. Here are some details about the diet of barasingha:

(i) Grazing:

Barasinghas are primarily grazers, feeding on grasses found in their habitats. They are adapted to grassland environments, including flat or undulating grasslands, floodplains, and marshes.

(ii) Plant Species Consumed:

They feed on a variety of grass species, including Saccharum, Imperata cylindrica, Narenga porphyrocoma, Phragmites karka, Oryza rufipogon, Hygroryza, and Hydrilla.

(iii) Aquatic Plants:

Aquatic plants are also a notable part of their diet, emphasizing their adaptation to wetland habitats.

(iv) Feeding Patterns:

Swamp deer feed throughout the day, with peaks in activity during the mornings and late afternoons to evenings.

(v) Water Consumption:

They drink water twice a day in winter and monsoon, and three or more times in summer. This suggests a seasonal variation in their water intake.

7. Behavior:

The behavior of the barasingha is influenced by various factors, including their social structure, habitat, and seasonal changes. Here are some aspects of the behavior of barasinghas:

(i) Herd Composition:

Barasinghas often exhibit social behavior and may form herds, especially during the breeding season. In central India, the herds comprise on average about 8–20 individuals, with large herds of up to 60. There are twice as many females than males. During the rut they form large herds of adults. These herds may include females, young individuals, and subordinate males.

(ii) Territorial Behavior:

Mature males can be territorial, especially during the breeding season. They use vocalizations and markings to establish and defend their territories.

(iii) Vocalizations:

Barasinghas can produce various vocalizations, including bellows and alarm calls. These vocalizations play a role in communication within the herd and may serve as warnings of potential threats.

(iv) Antler Display:

The antlers of mature males are important for display and are used in interactions with other males during territorial disputes or mating rituals.

(v) Swimming Ability:

Barasinghas are known for their swimming ability. They are adept at crossing rivers and navigating through wetland habitats. This skill is likely an adaptation to their preference for areas with water.

(vi) Feeding Behavior:

Barasinghas are primarily grazers, feeding on grasses and aquatic plants. They may forage throughout the day, with peak activity during the mornings and late afternoons to evenings.

(vii) Resting Habits:

During the hot season, swamp deer rest in the shade of trees during the day. This behavior helps them avoid the heat and conserve energy.

(viii) Shyness:

Barasinghas are often described as shy animals, making them difficult to spot in the wild. This behavior likely contributes to their ability to avoid predators and potential threats.

8. Reproduction:

The reproduction of barasingha involves specific mating behaviors, a gestation period, and the birth of single calves. Here are the key aspects of their reproductive process:

(i) Breeding Season (Rut):

The breeding season, known as the rut, typically occurs from September to April.

(ii) Mating Behavior:

During the rut, mature males, known as stags, become more active in marking and defending their territories. Stags may engage in vocalizations, antler displays, and interactions with other males to establish dominance and attract females.

(iii) Herd Formation:

Large herds of adults, including both males and females, are formed during the rut. The herds may consist of 8–20 individuals on average, with larger herds of up to 60 individuals.

(iv) Gestation Period:

The gestation period for barasingha is approximately 240–250 days.

(v) Birth:

Births typically occur from August to November, with the peak in September and October. Barasingha females give birth to single calves.

(vi) Calving Season:

The timing of births coincides with the end of the gestation period, ensuring that the calves are born during a favorable period, likely providing them with better chances of survival.

9. Lifespan:

The lifespan of barasingha in the wild is typically around 15 to 20 years. However, various factors can influence the lifespan of individuals, including environmental conditions, predation, availability of food resources, and human-related threats.

In the wild, barasinghas face challenges such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and the potential for conflicts with humans, including poaching. 

In captivity, where individuals may be protected from some of the threats present in the wild, they can potentially live longer.

10. Speed:

Barasingha are not known for exceptional speed. They are generally not as swift as some other deer species. Their behavior and adaptations are more suited to their habitat preferences and the challenges of wetland environments.

The primary adaptations of barasingha are for grazing and wading through wetlands rather than for rapid escape. Their body structure, which includes a sturdy build, may not be optimized for high-speed running. Instead, they are more adept at navigating through water, making them skilled swimmers.

In general, deer are capable of reaching considerable speeds when they need to escape from predators. However, the specific speed of barasingha can vary, and they may rely on other strategies, such as concealment and group behavior, to avoid predation.

11. Cultural Significance: 

The barasingha holds cultural significance and is designated as the state animal of the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. In Assamese, barasingha is called "dolhorina," where "dol" means swamp.

Barasingha (Indian Swamp Deer) Distribution in India

Where is Barasingha found in India?/Where is Barasingha mainly found?

Historically, barasinghas were found in various parts of the Indian subcontinent, including Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Bangladesh. However, their range has significantly decreased over the years due to habitat loss and other factors.

The primary areas where the barasingha is found in India include:

1. Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh): 

Kanha National Park is one of the key strongholds for the barasingha. The park, located in Madhya Pradesh, is known for its efforts in conserving the population of the hard ground (swamp) barasingha.

2. Dudhwa National Park (Uttar Pradesh):

Dudhwa National Park, located in the terai region of Uttar Pradesh, is another important area for the conservation of barasingha.

3. Kaziranga National Park (Assam):

Kaziranga National Park in Assam is a crucial habitat for barasingha. Conservation efforts in Kaziranga play a pivotal role in ensuring the survival of this species.

4. Orang National Park (Assam):

There have been efforts to reintroduce the eastern swamp deer (barasingha) in areas beyond its historical range. Orang National Park in Assam is one such area where these conservation efforts have taken place.

Barasingha (Indian Swamp Deer) Protection Status

The barasingha, or Indian swamp deer, holds the following protection statuses:

1. IUCN Status:

The barasingha is classified as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This designation indicates that the species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

2. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Status:

Barasingha is listed in CITES Appendix I, which includes species threatened with extinction. International trade of specimens of these species is prohibited or strictly regulated to ensure their survival.

3. Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (India):

 In India, the barasingha is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. This schedule provides the highest level of protection, and offenses related to the hunting or trade of species listed under Schedule I are subject to severe penalties.

Barasingha (Indian Swamp Deer) Conservation

Conservation efforts for the barasingha primarily focus on habitat preservation, protection from poaching, and the management of threats to ensure the survival and well-being of the species. Here are key aspects of barasingha conservation:

1. Habitat Protection and Restoration:

Preservation and restoration of wetland habitats, including grasslands, floodplains, and marshes, are crucial for the barasingha's survival. Conservation efforts often involve securing and maintaining suitable habitats to ensure an adequate food supply and breeding grounds.

2. Anti-Poaching Measures:

Implementation of robust anti-poaching measures is essential to combat illegal hunting and trade of barasingha. This includes increasing patrolling, employing technology for monitoring, and engaging local communities in wildlife protection.

3. Research and Monitoring:

Ongoing research and monitoring programs help gather data on barasingha populations, behavior, and health. This information is crucial for adaptive management strategies and informed decision-making.

4. Genetic Management:

Conservation programs may include genetic management to maintain genetic diversity within populations. Captive breeding and reintroduction efforts may be employed to bolster populations and reduce the risk of inbreeding.

5. Translocation and Reintroduction:

Reintroduction programs, such as those in Orang National Park in Assam, aim to expand the range of the barasingha and establish new populations in areas where they were historically present.

6. Awareness and Education:

Public awareness and education campaigns play a role in fostering understanding and support for barasingha conservation. Educating communities, tourists, and stakeholders about the importance of preserving the species and its habitat can lead to better conservation outcomes.

7. International Collaboration:

Collaboration between countries, international organizations, and conservation bodies is crucial for addressing transboundary issues and implementing conservation strategies that span the entire range of the species.


The barasingha faces several threats that impact its populations and habitat. These threats contribute to its vulnerable status. Key threats to the barasingha include:

1. Habitat Loss and Fragmentation:

The conversion of natural habitats for agriculture, urbanization, and infrastructure development results in habitat loss and fragmentation. Barasinghas depend on specific wetland habitats, and alterations to these areas can negatively impact their survival.

2. Human-Wildlife Conflict:

As human populations expand and encroach into wildlife habitats, conflicts between humans and barasingha may arise. Crop depredation by the deer can lead to retaliatory actions by farmers, posing a threat to the species.

3. Poaching:

Illegal hunting and poaching for meat and body parts, such as antlers, pose a significant threat to barasingha populations. Poaching is often driven by the demand for wildlife products and can have severe consequences for the species' survival.

4. Water Pollution:

Pollution of water bodies, such as rivers and wetlands, can have adverse effects on barasingha. Contaminated water sources can impact the health of the deer and the availability of suitable aquatic plants.

5. Invasive Species:

The introduction of invasive plant species can alter the composition of natural vegetation, affecting the availability of preferred food sources for barasingha.

6. Disease Outbreaks:

Disease outbreaks, particularly those affecting ungulates, can pose a threat to barasingha populations. Monitoring and managing disease risks are crucial for the species' conservation.

7. Lack of Connectivity:

Fragmentation of habitats and the lack of connectivity between populations can limit genetic exchange and increase the vulnerability of isolated groups.

8. Human Disturbance:

Human activities such as tourism, infrastructure development, and recreational activities can disturb barasingha populations, leading to stress and potential long-term impacts on their behavior and reproductive success.

9. Land Use Changes:

Historical changes in land use, particularly the conversion of wetlands for agricultural purposes, have resulted in the loss of a significant portion of the swamp deer's former range.

Barasingha (Indian Swamp Deer) UPSC Question

Q. Is Barasingha endemic to India?

A. Yes, the barasingha (Indian swamp deer) is considered endemic to the Indian subcontinent. "Endemic" refers to a species that is native and restricted to a specific geographic area. In the case of the barasingha, its natural range historically included various parts of the Indian subcontinent, such as Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Bangladesh.

Q. Which national park in India has an official mascot named bhur singh the barasingha?

A. The national park in India with an official mascot named "Bhur Singh the Barasingha" is Kanha National Park. Kanha National Park, located in Madhya Pradesh, is one of the prominent tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries in India. The park is known for its efforts in conservation, particularly for the preservation of the barasingha, also known as the swamp deer.

Bhur Singh, the Barasingha, serves as the official mascot to create awareness about wildlife conservation and the importance of preserving the unique flora and fauna in Kanha National Park. This initiative is part of the park's outreach and education programs aimed at promoting environmental awareness and encouraging responsible tourism.

Q. What is the status of Indian barasingha?/What is the IUCN status of Barasingha?/Is barasingha endangered?

A. The barasingha (Indian swamp deer) is classified as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The "Vulnerable" status indicates that the species faces a high risk of extinction in the wild. This vulnerability is primarily attributed to factors such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and poaching.

Q. Why is Barasingha called Barasingha?

A. The name "Barasingha" is derived from the Hindi language, where "barah" means twelve, and "singha" means horn. This name highlights one of the most distinctive features of the species: their antlers, which typically have more than three tines (or points). Specifically, mature stags of the Barasingha usually have antlers with 10 to 14 tines, and some individuals have been known to have up to 20 tines.

The unique and impressive antlers of the Barasingha are a significant characteristic that sets them apart from other Indian deer species. The name "Barasingha" is a reflection of this distinctive feature, emphasizing the remarkable nature of their antlers.

Q. What is another name for Barasingha?

A. Another name for the Barasingha is the "Indian Swamp Deer." The name "Barasingha" is commonly used due to the species' distinctive antlers, as explained earlier, while the term "Swamp Deer" reflects its preference for wetland habitats, including swamps and marshes. 

Barasingha (Indian Swamp Deer)

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